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Left anterior descending artery (LAD artery)

Recommended video: Coronary arteries and cardiac veins [16:59]
Overview of the main coronary arteries and cardiac veins.
Anterior interventricular artery (Arteria interventricularis anterior)

The left anterior descending artery, preferably known as the anterior interventricular artery (AIV), or LAD artery, is the continuing branch of the left coronary artery. It is located subepicardially within the anterior and inferior interventricular sulci of the heart.

The artery gives off conal, anterior ventricular and interventricular septal branches. They contribute mainly to the blood supply of the anterior surface of the left ventricle and the distal two thirds of the interventricular septum, both anterior and inferior. By supplying large areas of the heart with blood, an occlusion of the AIV can quickly lead to an extensive heart attack and death. Therefore, it is colloquially known as the widow maker artery.

This article will discuss the anatomy and function of the anterior interventricular artery.

Key facts about the anterior interventricular artery
Origin Left coronary artery
Branches Conal, anterior ventricular (right, left), interventricular septal (anterior, inferior) 
Supply Anterior surface of left ventricle, distal two thirds of anterior and inferior interventricular septum
  1. Origin and course
  2. Branches and supply
  3. Clinical point
  4. Sources
+ Show all

Origin and course

The AIV stems from the left coronary artery at the superior end of the anterior interventricular sulcus. It courses obliquely and anteroinferiorly along the anterior surface of the heart towards its apex, within the anterior interventricular sulcus. The AIV curves around the apex of the heart and continues superiorly along the inferior surface of the heart, within the inferior interventricular sulcus. The artery ends approximately halfway along the inferior surface by anastomosing with the inferior interventricular branch (a.k.a posterior interventricular/posterior descending branch) of the right coronary artery.

Within the anterior interventricular sulcus, the AIV is accompanied on the left side by the anterior interventricular vein, which later continues as the great cardiac vein once it has entered the coronary sulcus.

Branches and supply

The AIV has several branches:

  • The conal branch is a small branch which supplies the left aspect of the conus arteriosus, anastomosing with the larger conus artery of the right coronary artery.
  • Anterior ventricular branches, which are divided into right and left. The right anterior ventricular branches are small, supplying a small part of the anterior surface of the right ventricle directly adjacent to the anterior interventricular sulcus. The left anterior ventricular branches are more significant. They extend diagonally along the entire anterior surface of the left ventricle, supplying it with oxygenated blood. The left anterior ventricular branch can give off up to seven or eight diagonal branches (D1-D7/D8)
  • Interventricular septal branches, which are divided into anterior and inferior. The anterior interventricular septal branches supply the anterior two thirds of the interventricular septum and the atrioventricular bundle. The inferior interventricular septal branches supply the distal third of the inferior interventricular septum.

Master the branches of the coronary arteries, including the AIV, using the articles, videos, quizzes and illustrations in the following study unit.

Left anterior descending artery (LAD artery): want to learn more about it?

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