Anatomy of the vessels of the posterior abdominal wall

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Anatomy of the vessels of the posterior abdominal wall

USMLE® Step 1 questions

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Anatomy of the vessels of the posterior abdominal wall

Figure 1: Arterial supply of the posterior abdominal wall.

Figure 2: Venous drainage of the posterior abdominal wall, showing some of the veins that correspond to the paired parietal branches of the aorta.

Figure 3: Tributaries of the hepatic portal vein which correspond to the unpaired visceral branches of the aorta.

Figure 4: Blood supply and venous drainage of the kidneys and suprarenal glands.

Figure 5: Vessels passing between the abdomen and thorax through the caval opening and aortic hiatus.

Figure 6: Lymph nodes of the posterior abdominal wall.


USMLE® Step 1 style questions USMLE

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A researcher is studying the origin and blood supply of different regions of the gastrointestinal tract. The blood vessel that supplies the hindgut originates at which of the following vertebral levels?  


The major vessels of the abdomen, including the abdominal aorta and the inferior vena cava, course along the posterior abdominal wall. Branches and tributaries of these vessels help supply and drain the posterior abdominal wall, and the abdominal viscera. Important lymphatic vessels that help with drainage of the lower body are also found in this area.

Let’s start off with the abdominal aorta, which gives rise to most of the arteries supplying the posterior abdominal wall. It transitions from the thoracic aorta to the abdominal aorta starting at the aortic hiatus, located within the diaphragm, at the level of the T12 vertebra. Then, it descends anterior to the vertebral bodies and ends at the level of the L4 vertebra.

From superior to inferior, the abdominal aorta has a number of structures associated with it anteriorly. These include the celiac plexus and ganglia, the body of the pancreas, the splenic vein, the left renal vein, the horizontal part of the duodenum and the coils of the small intestine.

Structures to the right of the abdominal aorta include the inferior vena cava, azygos vein, cisterna chyli, and the thoracic duct. Posteriorly, the left lumbar veins pass behind the aorta to reach the inferior vena cava.


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  6. "Scholars and scientists in the history of the lymphatic system" Journal of Anatomy (2017)
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  8. "Clinically Oriented Anatomy" LWW (2017)

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