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Blood supply and innervation of the small intestine

Recommended video: Arteries of the small intestine [09:05]
Arteries of the small intestine with focus on the superior mesenteric artery.

The neurovascular supply of any area of the body is the network in which the blood is pumped and the structures are innervated. The blood provides the necessary nutrition to that region in order for it to function and the nervous tissue circulates information between the brain and the periphery via action potentials.

Small intestine is crucial for proper functioning of human organism, since it is the enterance to all nutrients that are necessary for both constitutive and metabolic processes in the body. Without proper blood supply, it would be impossible for those substances to enter our circulatory system and to distribute throughout the body.

Key facts
Duodenum Arterial supply: superior anterior and posterior pancreaticoduodenal arteries (branches of gastroduodenal artery), anterior and posterior inferior pancreaticoduodenal arteries (branches of superior mesenteric artery)
Venous drainage: duodenal veins -> pancreaticoduodenal vein -> superior mesenteric vein ->portal vein
Innervation: Greater splanchnic nerves via celiac plexus (sympathetic), vagus nerve (CN X) via anterior and posterior vagal trunks (parasympathetic)
Jejunum and ileum Arterial supply: arterial arcades of superior mesenteric artery
Venous drainage: venous arcades -> superior mesenteric vein -> portal vein
Innervation: Lesser splanchnic nerves  (T9-T10) via celiac and superior mesenteric plexus (sympathetic), vagus nerve (CN X) augments peristaltic activity of enteric nervous system (parasympathetic)  

This article aims to give a brief overview of the arterial supply, the venous and lymphatic drainage and the innervation of the duodenum, the jejunum and the ileum.

  1. Arteries
    1. Duodenum
    2. Jejunum and ileum
  2. Venous and lymphatic drainage
    1. Duodenum
    2. Jejunum and ileum
  3. Innervation
    1. Duodenum 
    2. Jejunum and ileum
  4. Summary
    1. Duodenum
    2. Jejunum and ileum
  5. Sources
+ Show all



The duodenum is supplied proximally by a branch of the common hepatic artery called the gastroduodenal artery that stems from the celiac trunk and gives the superior anterior and posterior pancreaticoduodenal arteries.  It also receives blood distally from the anterior and posterior inferior pancreaticoduodenal arteries which are branches of the superior mesenteric artery. The terminal branches of the duodenal arteries form an important anastomoses between the celiac trunk and the superior mesenteric artery.

Jejunum and ileum

The main arterial supply of the jejunum and the ileum is from a single artery known as the superior mesenteric and between fifteen to eighteen of its branches which form anastomoses loops known as arterial arcades with terminal vasa recta or straight branches. It should be noted that a double row of arcades supplies the ileum

The blood supply and innervation of the small intestines are a big topic, so you want to revise them as efficiently as possible! Make sure you don't make any of these common mistakes which hinder your anatomy learning.

Venous and lymphatic drainage


The duodenal veins drain directly from the duodenum into the pancreaticoduodenal veins. From here they merge back into the two largest vessels which are the superior mesenteric vein and the common hepatic vein. Generally speaking, the veins follow the arteries in this region and they all drain either directly or indirectly into the portal vein.

The lymph nodes that collect lymph from around the duodenum encircle the arteries and drain into the pancreaticoduodenal nodes, the pyloric nodes, the superior mesenteric nodes and the celiac lymph nodes.

Jejunum and ileum

The superior mesenteric vein collects blood from the venous arcades of the small intestine and merges with the splenic vein posterior to the head of the pancreas to form the portal vein.

The lymphatic tissue in the villi of the jejunum and the ileum is unique due to the fact that it contains special vessels known as lacteals which have the ability to absorb fat. The absorbed fat is known as chyle and is drained from the finger-like mucosa of the small intestine into the surrounding lymphatic plexuses that run within its walls. The lymphatic system of this region travels between the layers of the mesentery and drains firstly into the mesenteric lymph nodes, before continuing into the superior mesenteric or ileocolic nodes before finally reaching the cysterna chyli.

For more details about the blood supply of the small intestine, take a look below:



The duodenum receives both sympathetic and parasympathetic innervation. The vagus nerve (CN X), provides parasympathetic fibers via the anterior and vagal trunks, while the greater sphlanchnic nerves (T5-T9) gives fibers to the celiac plexus that subsequently travel along the pancreaticoduodenal arteries.

Jejunum and ileum

Like the duodenum, the lower section of the small intestine is also innervated by both parasympathetic and sympathetic fibers. The sympathetic nerves arrive from the 9th to 10th thoracic spinal cord segments via the lesser splanchnic nerves, to the celiac and superior mesenteric ganglia before innervating the midgut.

Parasympathetic input is derived from the vagus nerve (CN X), which augments the peristaltic activity of the enteric nervous system in the submucosal and myenteric plexus of the midgut. 

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