7.9. The Great Vessels

What are the Great Vessels?

The great vessels are the five large (groups of) arteries and veins that leave/drain into the heart. Specifically, they are the:

  • Aorta
  • Pulmonary trunk
  • SVC
  • IVC
  • Pulmonary Veins

Identifying the Great Vessels on an Unlabelled Diagram or Prosection

Looking at the anterior aspect of the heart, the most anteriorly-located vessel is the pulmonary trunk (which will divide into the two pulmonary arteries). Immediately posterior to this lies the ascending aorta. Look at the accompanying diagram and note how the left pulmonary artery remains anterior to the descending aorta, but the right pulmonary artery travels posterior to the ascending aorta. This layout occurs because the aortic arch is directed posterolaterally, towards the left side of the vertebral column. The descending aorta is one of the most large, posterior vessels of the thorax.