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Blood vessels

Learning objectives

After completing this study unit you will be able to:

  1. Name the different types of blood vessels.
  2. Explain the characteristics of different blood vessels.
  3. Recognize their differences in histological images.

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Blood vessels are hollow organs that transport blood throughout the body and supply it with oxygen and nutrients. The inner cavity in which the blood flows is called the lumen and is typically surrounded by one or more layers, depending on the type of blood vessel.

The wall of larger vessels such as arteries and veins consists of three layers. The innermost layer is the tunica intima, which is made up of endothelial cells and a subendothelial connective tissue layer. The middle layer, the tunica media, consists of smooth muscle cells and partly elastic and collagenous connective tissue. Arteries have a more pronounced tunica media which gives them less compliance than veins. The outermost tunica externa or adventitia is a layer of connective tissue that anchors the vessel in its surroundings.

Small vessels such as arterioles, venules and capillaries all contribute to microcirculation. These vessels have thinner wall layers, which, for example, in capillaries only consist of a layer of endothelial cells, the basal lamina and pericytes.

Watch the following videos to learn more about blood vessel microanatomy:

Browse atlas

Ready to review all these structures in further detail? Browse our image gallery below:

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Ready to take it a step further? Download the following PDF worksheets and learn everything about the structure of the arteries and veins.


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