Superior Mesenteric Artery
What is the superior mesenteric artery?
The superior mesenteric artery provides oxygenated blood and nutrients to the intestines. These organs are part of the digestive system. The artery branches off of the aorta, which is the body’s largest blood vessel.
Superior refers to the artery’s location above other arteries that supply the intestines. A related artery, the inferior mesenteric artery, supplies the lower gastrointestinal (GI) tract.
What is the purpose of the superior mesenteric artery?
The superior mesenteric artery is a peripheral artery in the body’s circulatory system. Arteries carry blood from the heart to the rest of the body. Peripheral arteries circulate blood to parts of the body farther from the heart.
The superior mesenteric artery provides blood to the:
- Small intestine, including the duodenum (part that connects the small intestine to the stomach).
- Large intestine.
Where is the superior mesenteric artery?
The superior mesenteric artery is in the midsection of the digestive tract (midgut). It originates from the aorta between the celiac artery and renal arteries. The celiac artery supplies blood to the liver, spleen and stomach. The renal arteries send blood to the kidneys.
The superior mesenteric artery travels behind the pancreas. It runs alongside the superior mesenteric vein, which takes blood away from the midgut. Veins carry blood from the body back to the heart and lungs.
What are the superior mesenteric artery branches?
The superior mesenteric artery has several branches that send blood to various parts of the GI tract. The branches include the:
- Inferior pancreaticoduodenal artery: Sends blood to the head of the pancreas (the organ’s widest section) and the duodenum.
- Middle colic artery: Sends blood to the transverse colon, the longest part of the large intestine.
- Right colic artery: Sends blood to the beginning part of the colon that travels up the right side of the stomach.
- Jejunal and ileal arteries: Supply blood to the jejunum (midsection of the small intestine) and part of the ileum (last part of the small intestine).
- Ileocolic artery: Sends blood to the appendix, part of the ileum (last part of the small intestine) and cecum (first part of the large intestine).
What is the marginal artery of Drummond?
Several branches of the superior mesenteric artery and the inferior mesenteric artery connect. This provides the intestines with multiple pathways or sources of blood. The marginal artery of Drummond is one of these connections. This artery runs alongside the colon.
In some patients, the superior mesenteric artery is blocked. The marginal artery of Drummond is an important blood vessel that lets blood reach the GI tract in this scenario.
Conditions and Disorders
What conditions and disorders affect the superior mesenteric artery?
Conditions that affect the superior mesenteric artery include:
- Mesenteric ischemia: This condition occurs when a blockage (occlusion) slows or stops blood flow to the intestine. Plaque deposits of fat and cholesterol (atherosclerosis) or a blood clot (thrombus) can cause a partial or complete artery blockage.
- Mesenteric aneurysm: An enlargement of the superior mesenteric artery that may result in the blood vessel wall weakening and eventually rupture.
- Nutcracker syndrome: This syndrome occurs when the superior mesenteric artery and the aorta squeeze the left renal (kidney) vein. This vein carries filtered blood out of the kidneys. The compression can lead to flank pain, blood in the urine or pelvic congestion.
- Superior mesenteric artery syndrome: This rare condition occurs when the superior mesenteric artery and the aorta squeeze the duodenum. The compression keeps food from leaving the stomach and pain when eating.
How can I protect my superior mesenteric artery?
These lifestyle changes can keep your body’s circulatory system healthy:
Frequently Asked Questions
When should I talk to a doctor?
You should call your healthcare provider if you experience:
- Bloody stool or urine.
- Severe abdominal pain.
- Unexplained weight loss.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
The superior mesenteric artery plays a vital role in keeping the digestive system healthy and functioning. If the artery clogs with plaque or develops a clot, blood flow to digestive organs slows. Rarely, the superior mesenteric artery presses against a renal vein or the duodenum, causing potentially life-threatening problems.
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