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Anatomy Atlases: Illustrated Encyclopedia of Human Anatomic Variation: Opus II: Cardiovascular System: Arteries: Head, Neck, and Thorax: Esophageal Arteries

Illustrated Encyclopedia of Human Anatomic Variation: Opus II: Cardiovascular System: Arteries: Head, Neck, and Thorax

Esophageal Arteries

Ronald A. Bergman, PhD
Adel K. Afifi, MD, MS
Ryosuke Miyauchi, MD

Peer Review Status: Internally Peer Reviewed

"The pharynx, esophagus and trachea are usually supplied by several very fine arterial twigs from the terminal branches of the inferior thyroid artery. Although these arterial branches are quite small in size, they are usually multiple in number, ranging from 1 to 4 on either side.These branches may pass directly to the esophagus and trachea, or may pursue a long and devious course downward into the superior mediastinum, before breaking up into their terminal branches. As a rule, this terminal branching occurs in the region of the groove formed between the trachea and esophagus, with the terminal twigs supplying the adjacent surfaces of both structures."

"Single arterial branches were present 31 times on the right side and 27 times on the left. Dual arterial branches were found 18 times on the right and 21 times on the left. Triple arterial twigs were encountered on 15 sides, 8 on the right and 7 on the left, while quadruple branches were present on 3 left sides."

"Since many of the dissections were performed by our freshman medical students, it is possible that multiple branches occur much more frequently than is indicated by this study" (Anson).

" The arterial branches to the esophagus and trachea were derived from the distal half of the inferior thyroid artery 63 times on the right and 65 times on the left side. The esophagus and tracheal arterial branches originated from the proximal half of the inferior thyroid artery 20 times on the right and 23 times on the leftside. These arterial branches took origin from the thyrocervical trunk proper, before its division into terminal branches, in 10 cases, 4 on the right and 6 on the left side. In 2 cases, 1 on each side, these arterial branches were derived from the costocervical trunk, whereas in 2 additional cases, 1 on either side, the arterial branches took origin from the first part of the subclavian artery. In 1 specimen, on the right, the arterial twig to the esophagus and trachea arose as a branch of the innominate artery, while in another specimen, also on the right side, this vessel arose as a direct branch of the common carotid artery. On the left side of this specimen, this twig arose as a branch of the vertebral artery, the inferior thyroid artery being absent. In another specimen, in which the inferior thyroid artery was also absent, a large, short trunk dividing into 4 separate twigs, arose as a branch from the common trunk of a vessel from which the superficial and ascending cervical arteries and suprascapular artery took origin" (from Anson, 1950).

An "aberrant artery" may arise from the thoracic aorta (near the right intercostal bronchial artery) and may anastomose with an aberrant artery from the right subclavian, costocervical, or supreme intercostal artery. The "aberrant" artery is regarded as a remnant of the right dorsal aortic root.

See also Bronchial and Esophageal Arteries and Aorta for additional data and references.

Image 117, Image 118, Image 322


Anson, B.J., Ed. (1966) Morris' Human Anatomy, 12th ed., The Blakiston Division, McGraw-Hill Book Company, New York.

Delmas, A. et M. Gonzalez (1971) Angioarchtecture de l'oesophage. Bull. Acad. Nat. Med. 155:621-626.

Latarjet, A. (1948) Testut's Traite d'Anatomie Humaine, 9th ed., G. Doin & Cie., Paris.

Schaefer, E.A., Symington, J. and T.H. Bryce, Eds. (1915) Quain's Anatomy, 11th ed., Longmans, Green and Co., London.

Winslow, R. (1882) A study of the malformations, variations, and anomalies of the circulatory apparatus in man. Annals of Anatomy and Surgery 6:259.

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