Most diagrams of the human heart show the aorta as a thick tube leading up and out from the left ventricle. What we do not always see is the full length of the aorta: the artery actually extends down into the abdomen and ends just above the pelvis (where it splits into the two common iliac arteries).
Structure of the Aorta
The aorta begins at the heart’s left ventricle, and reaches up and out from the heart (this part is called the ascending aorta), then it forms an arch (the aortic arch) and extends down into the abdomen (this part is called the descending aorta).
The descending aorta has two parts:
- The thoracic aorta is the portion of the descending aorta that passes through the chest.
- The abdominal aorta is the portion of the descending aorta that passes through the abdomen.
The Aortic Wall
The thick wall of the aorta has three layers:
- The innermost layer, called the intima, creates a smooth surface for blood to flow over.
- The middle layer, called the media, allows the aorta to expand and contract with each heartbeat.
- The outer layer, called the adventitia, provides additional support and structure.
Learn more about the aorta and aortic disease:
- What Is Aortic Disease?
- Treatments for Aortic Disease
- Houston Methodist Acute Aortic Treatment Center
For more information about the Methodist Aortic Network or to schedule an appointment, please call 713-441-5200 or complete our online contact us form.