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Vasa Vasorum

Recommended video: Microanatomy of Blood Vessels [13:51]
Close up view of an artery and a vein in cross-section.

Vasa vasorum can be described as the "vessels to the vessels".

Small blood vessels that supply the walls of larger arteries and veins are known as vasa vasorum. These blood vessels supply the outer wall (externa) of large arteries and veins. The inner walls are supplied through diffusion of the blood which flows through the lumen itself. 

Once a vessel wall exceeds 1mm in thickness, nourishment from simple diffusion through the lumen becomes insufficient. These vessels then receive their arterial supply through vasa vasorum. 

Vasa vasorum arise from and drain into peripheral branches of the vessel they supply. They terminate in the externa (outer most layer) of large blood vessels and in the largest of arteries, they may even extend to the outer layer of the media (middle layer).

The vasa vasorum of large veins usually penetrate slightly deeper due to lower oxygen tension.

Terminology English and Latin: Vasa vasorum
Location In tunica externa of vessels with an outer wall greater than 1mm in thickness. 
Function Provide arterial supply to the tunica externa of large vessels (arteries and veins)

Take a closer look at the anatomy of blood vessels using the study unit below.

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