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What is an artery?

Definition, anatomy and function of an artery.

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Hello again! It’s Matt from Kenhub and, in this tutorial, I will quickly answer the question, what is an artery? So the next time your teacher asks you this question, raise your hand and remember my words. First thing you need to know is that there are three major classes of vessels including the arteries, veins, and capillaries and they are categorized according to their histological structure.

On this image, you can see all these red structures which are some of the main arteries found in your body. Here is a famous one – the aorta in all its glory and with some of the branches that come out of it. Next, I will quickly describe the basic function and structure of the arteries.

Arteries transport blood towards the tissues and away from the heart and have thick muscular walls with small internal lumina or passageways that can withstand blood under high pressure. As the arterial branches go away from the heart and deeper into the tissues, they get smaller and smaller so as to be able to access all areas. You can clearly see that on this image of a section of the kidney showing many arteries of different sizes accessing the many intricate areas of the organ. They do this by branching off into arterioles which are smaller in diameter and more numerous and then into capillaries. This is the point where the arteries and veins merge with one another in a complex plexus of many tiny branches. This is also where the exchange of gases, nutrients and waste products take place because the capillary walls are thin and fenestrated. After this, the capillaries collect into venules which are the equivalent to arterioles and finally into the veins.

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