Vascular Development

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Heart development | Main Anatomy Index | Respiratory development

Last updated 30 March 2006

This page was contributed by David Boshell

Vascular Development


  1. In the yolk sac, connecting stalk and chorion, blood vessels develop from aggregations of extraembryonic mesoderm called blood islands, which interconnect to form a vascular network from which larger vessels will be derived:
  2. In the embryo, vessels form from splanchnopleuric mesoderm cells called angioblasts, which flatten and join together to form angiocysts, which in turn link together to form tubular angioblastic cords.
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The Aortic Arches

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Development of the great arteries

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Gut tube portion

Ventral aortic branches

Thoracic foregut

~ 5 vitelline arteries

Abdominal foregut

Coeliac artery

Abdominal midgut

Superior mesenteric artery

Abdominal hindgut

Inferior mesenteric artery


Lateral aortic branches

Suprarenal glands

Suprarenal arteries


Gonadal arteries


Renal arteries

Intersegmental artery changes

Resulting Vessels

Little change

Intercostal, lumbar and lateral sacral arteries

Linkage of longitudinal sprouts

Vertebral, deep cervical, ascending cervical, internal thoracic, internal and external epigastric arteries


Parent branch of axis artery

Resulting Vessels

Upper Limb

7th cervical intersegmental artery

Axis artery remains dominant, producing brachial, anterior interosseous arteries and deep palmar arch

Lower Limb

5th lumbar intersegmental artery

Axis artery degenerates, leaving sciatic and part of peroneal (fibular) arteries

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Development of the veins

Vitelline system component


Vitelline venous plexus

Pervades yolk sac and gut tube; branches of right and left vitelline veins form liver sinusoids

Ductus venosus

Channel through foetal liver; carries oxygenated blood from the left umbilical vein the IVC; closes after birth

Right vitelline vein

Forms posthepatic portion of the IVC, and portal and superior mesenteric veins

Left vitelline vein

Forms some portal vessels, including splenic and inferior mesenteric veins

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System superseding posterior cardinal veins


Subcardinal system

Drains medial dorsal body wall, especially kidneys and gonads

Supracardinal system

Drains thoracic body wall

Supracardinal system portion



Left abdominal supracardinal degenerates; right abdominal supracardinal forms the IVC between the renal and iliac veins


left and right supracardinals form the hemiazygos and azygos veins, respectively

  1. The right vitelline vein
  2. The right subcardinal vein
  3. The right supracardinal vein
  4. The posterior cardinal veins
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Anterior cardinal vein portions



Form internal jugular veins


Right anterior cardinal becomes SVC; Left anterior cardinal degenerates, so left brachiocephalic vein forms to drain left anterior cardinal system into SVC


The coronary circulation

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Lymphatic system development

Lymph sac


Jugular lymph sacs

Head and neck

Retroperitoneal lymph sac, cisterna chyli and paired posterior lymph sacs

Lower trunk and extremities

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Changes in the circulatory system at birth

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Michael Tam (c) 1998