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Neurovasculature of the posterior mediastinum: want to learn more about it?

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Neurovasculature of the posterior mediastinum

Learning outcomes

This study unit will help you to:

  1. Identify the main arteries of the posterior mediastinum as well as their branches.
  2. Describe the main veins that drain the posterior mediastinum and their tributaries.
  3. Name the main nerves of the posterior mediastinum.

Watch videos

The mediastinum is a compartment located in the thoracic cavity, between the two pleural cavities. It is divided into the superior and inferior mediastinum. The inferior mediastinum is further divided into the anterior, middle and posterior mediastinum.

In this study unit, we will focus on the posterior mediastinum, an area located posteriorly to the pericardium and anteriorly to the vertebrae T5-T12. More specifically, we’ll look at the main arteries, veins, and nerves located in this compartment. Major vessels in the posterior mediastinum include the descending thoracic aorta and its branches, as well as the azygos system of veins. The main nerves of the posterior mediastinum include the right vagus nerve, left vagus nerve, the esophageal nerve plexus, and the anterior and posterior vagal trunks. The sympathetic trunks and the thoracic splanchnic nerves, commonly described as part of the posterior mediastinum, are actually located a bit more laterally, on each side of the thoracic vertebral column.

Want to dig deeper into the neurovasculature of the posterior mediastinum? Check our videos below!

Take a quiz

Test your knowledge on the neurovasculature of the posterior mediastinum by taking our quiz below!

You can also customize your own quiz with our custom quiz creator. On this link, you’ll find the preset for a quiz about all the structures of the mediastinum.

Browse atlas

Explore in detail the neurovasculature of the posterior mediastinum in the image galleries below. The first gallery displays the arteries and veins, while the second one shows the main nerves of this region.

Summary

Key points about the neurovasculature of the posterior mediastinum
Arteries Descending thoracic aorta and its branches (pericardial branches, bronchial branches, esophageal branches, mediastinal branches, posterior intercostal arteries, superior phrenic artery, subcostal artery)
Veins Azygos system of veins (azygos vein, hemiazygos vein, accessory hemiazygos vein), posterior intercostal veins, esophageal veins
Nerves Sympathetic trunks and thoracic splanchnic nerves, right and left vagi nerves, esophageal plexus, anterior and posterior vagal trunks

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