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The largest blood vessel in the human body is the aorta, which is a large artery that arises directly from the heart itself and courses down through the thorax and the abdomen giving off branches along its way. Aside from being the largest blood vessel of the body, the aorta is important because all arteries stem from it or its branches, with the exception of the pulmonary arteries. The aorta can be divided into different parts as it courses through the body. These are; the root of the aorta, the ascending aorta, the aortic arch and the descending aorta.
The descending aorta can be further divided into a thoracic part or the thoracic aorta, which is located in the thoracic region, and an abdominal part or the abdominal aorta, which is located in the abdomen. The abdominal aorta, which is basically a distal continuation of the thoracic aorta after the aorta enters the abdomen through the aortic hiatus of the diaphragm at the level of the T12 vertebra, continues down to the level of the fourth lumbar vertebra L4 at which point it bifurcates into the left and right common iliac arteries. Along its course, the abdominal aorta gives off several visceral branches that supply the abdominal viscera. In the abdomen, the aorta is travels caudally anterior to the vertebral bodies T 12 to L 4 to the left of the inferior vena cava.
Latin synonyms: Aorta descendens
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