Vessels and nerves of the vertebral column

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Vessels and Nerves of the Vertebral Column

Figure 1. Arterial supply of the vertebral column and spinal cord
Figure 2. Arterial supply of a typical vertebra, superior view of a thoracic vertebra.
Figure 3. Arterial supply of vertebral column and spinal cord, superior view
Figure 4.  Venous drainage of vertebrae A. Midsagittal view of lumbar vertebra B. Superior view of lumbar vertebra
Figure 5.  Innervation of vertebral column A. Lateral view of lumbar vertebrae B. Superior view of lumbar vertebra


The vertebral column is important for protecting the spinal cord, as well as providing structural support, flexibility, and range of motion to our bodies. To maintain all of these important functions, our vertebral column requires an adequate blood supply and innervation.

Alright, let’s start with the arteries of the vertebrae, which arise from various larger, parent arteries depending on the level of the vertebral column.

In the neck, parent arteries include the vertebral and ascending cervical arteries; In the thorax, the posterior intercostal arteries;

In the abdomen, they include the subcostal and lumbar arteries. And finally, in the pelvis, parent arteries include the iliolumbar, lateral sacral, and median sacral arteries.

Now, as these parent arteries cross the external surfaces of the vertebrae, they give rise to periosteal, equatorial, and spinal branches that directly supply the vertebrae.

Periosteal branches supply the periosteum, which is a dense layer of connective tissue that surrounds the vertebrae. The equatorial branches supply the vertebral bodies themselves.

Spinal branches pass through the intervertebral foramina and divide into smaller anterior and posterior vertebral canal branches.

Anterior vertebral canal branches follow the surface of the vertebral body anteriorly within the vertebral canal. Here, these arteries send nutrient branches that supply the red marrow of the vertebral body.


The vertebral column is supplied by a complex network of vessels and nerves. Its arterial supply comes from multiple sources, including the periosteal, equatorial, and spinal branches of major cervical arteries like the vertebral, ascending cervical, and deep cervical arteries. Additionally, segmental arteries like the intercostal, lumbar, and sacral arteries also contribute to the arterial supply of the vertebral column. Venous blood drains into the internal and external vertebral venous plexuses. The majority of the vertebral column is innervated by the recurrent meningeal nerves, except the facet joints, which are innervated by the articular branches of the medial branches of the posterior rami of spinal nerves.


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