Great vessels

In my years of experience as a medical industry trainer, and specially in the cardiovascular arena, I doubt if I ever received the correct answer to the question "How many are the great vessels?". Answer it now before you read the rest of this article, you may be surprised!

A great vessel is an artery or a vein that is in direct contact with the heart taking or bringing blood from the heart to the body and vice versa. At this point, most of the attendees to one of my conferences would answer "4". This is not correct.

The great vessels are:

Aorta
Pulmonary trunk
Superior vena cava
inferior vena cava
• Pulmonary veins

There are four pulmonary veins, two on each side (sometimes three on the right side), one superior and one inferior. This brings the total number of the great vessels to eight! By the way, if you answered "pulmonary artery" as one of the great vessels, that is not correct. Read more on the correct answer here.

Human heart clinical anatomy and pathology are some of the many lecture topics developed and presented by Clinical Anatomy Associates, Inc.

Sources:
1. "Tratado de Anatomia Humana" Testut et Latarjet 8 Ed. 1931 Salvat Editores, Spain
2. "Gray's Anatomy" 38th British Ed. Churchill Livingstone 1995

Anterior view of the heart and great vessels. Gray, 1918
Original image by Gray (1918)