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The function of the vascular system is to nourish each cell in the body. This includes the vertebral column, spinal cord, neural elements, muscles, and other related structures.

Blood and Its Importance

Blood contains plasma (fluid), red blood cells (erythrocytes), white bloods cells, and platelets.

Plasma – Cell Nourishment

Plasma, the liquid part of blood, makes up 90% of blood and contains water, salts, hormones, and proteins. It delivers proteins, fats, minerals, and lipids to every cell in the body. Cells cannot reproduce or repair damage without nutrient replenishment.

Oxygen – Red Blood Cells

One of the primary benefits cells derive from blood is oxygen. Cells need oxygen to burn glucose for energy. This oxygen comes from the red blood cells. Oxygenated blood is pumped from the heart via arteries and deoxygenated blood returns to the heart via veins. The Pulmonary Artery is an exception. It carries deoxygenated blood from the heart to the lungs where it is reoxygenated. The Pulmonary Vein then carries the oxygenated blood back to the heart from the lungs. The oxygenated blood is then circulated throughout the body.

Immunity – White Blood Cells

White cells are the primary components of the immune system and fight against infection and bacterial toxins. There are many types of white blood cells; neutrophils, eosinophils, lymphocytes, basophils, and monocytes – each playing a different role. Further, antibodies are transported via the circulatory system.

Clotting – Platelets

Platelets control bleeding from injury by creating a clot, or plug through a series of chemical reactions. The spinal column is served by the body’s elaborate system of arteries and veins, as outlined in the following tables.

Arteries Supplying Spinal Column

Arteries Region   Arteries Region
Vertebral Vertebral   Posterior Branch Thoracic to Sacrum
Basilar Basilar Cervical (Head)   Lumbar Segmental Lumbar
Carotid Cervical/Thoracic   Left Common Iliac Lumbar/pelvic organs, legs
Thoracic Aorta Thoracic cavity   Right Common Iliac Lumbar/pelvic organs, legs
Intercostal Thoracic wall   Segmental Lumbar to Sacrum
Spinal Branch Thoracic/Lumbar   Middle Sacral Lumbosacral
Anterior Spinal Thoracic/Lumbar   Iliolumbar Lumbosacral
Abdominal Aorta Thoracic/Lumbar cavities   Internal Iliac Lumbosacral

Circle of Willis

The Vertebral and Internal Carotid Arteries provide blood to the brain. These arteries give off branches that form a circle in the region of the pituitary gland. If the other two arteries are blocked, the blood vessels in the Circle of Willis provide an alternate way to feed blood to the brain.

Veins Supplying Spinal Column

Veins Region/Comment   Veins Region/Comment
Internal Jugular Cervical – returns blood from the head   Hemiazygous Lumbar
External Jugular Cervical – returns blood from the head   Lumbar Segmental Lumbar
Superior Vena Cava Cervical/Upper Thoracic Returns blood from upper body to heart   Left Common Iliac Lumbar
Thoracic Segmental Thoracic   Right Common Iliac Lumbar
Inferior Vena Cava Thoracic/Lumbosacral Returns blood from lower body to heart   Batson’s Plexus Lumbar – Valveless vein, provides alternate route for blood return to heart
Azygous Lumbar – Returns blood from lower body when inferior vena cava obstructed   Common Iliac Lumbosacral

Arterial Branches of the Spine

Artery Spinal Region Source – Branch From
Anterior Radicular Meninges Spinal Cord Vertebral, Posterior Intercostal, Lumbar, Lateral Sacral
Anterior Spinal Meninges Spinal Cord Vertebral, Posterior Intercostal, Lumbar, Lateral Sacral
Aortic Arch Entire Body Except Heart Ascending Aorta
Basilar Cranial Nerves, Cerebellum Vertebral
Brachiocephalic Trunk Right side of head, neck, upper limb,chest wall Aortic Arch
Cerebral Arterial Circle Brain – Midbrain Posterior Cerebral, Anterior Cerebral
Common Carotid Head – upper neck Brachiocephalic Trunk, Aortic Arch
External Carotid Upper neck Common Carotid
Great Anterior Radicular Lower Spinal Cord Lower Posterior Intercostal
Internal Carotid Brain Common Carotid
Lateral Sacral Sacrum, Sacral Nerve Roots, Meninges Internal Iliac
Lumbar Spinal Cord, Vertebral Column Abdominal Aorta
Median Sacral Sacrum Abdominal Aorta
Middle Meningeal Dura Mater Maxillary
Posterior Radicular Meninges, Spinal Cord Vertebral Posterior Intercostal, Lumbar, Lateral Sacral
Posterior Spinal Spinal Cord Posterior Inferior Cerebellar, Vertebral Posterior Intercostal, Lumbar, Lateral Sacral
Subclavian Neck, Brain, Spinal Cord Brachiocephalic, Aortic Arch
Vertebral Spinal Cord, Neck Subclavian

Venous Branches of the Spine

Vein Spinal Region Source(s)
Anterior Jugular Neck Submental
Azygos Chest Wall Lumbar, Subcosta, Posterior Intercostal
Brachiocephalic Head, Neck, Upper Limbs Subclavian, Internal Jugular, Vertebra
Cavernous Sinus Brain Superior Ophthalmic, Middle Cerebral
External Jugular Head, Neck Posterior Auricular, Posterior External Jugular, Transverse Cervical, Anterior Jugular
External Vertebral Plexus Vertebral Column, Vertebral Muscles Internal Vertebral Plexus
Hemiazygos Lower Chest Wall Lumbar, Subcostal
Internal Vertebral Plexus Spinal Cord, Meninges, Vertebral Column External Vertebral Plexus
Posterior Intercostal Spinal Cord, Vertebra, Ribs Spinal Tributary, Posterior Tributary
Pterygoid Plexus Meninges Middle Meningeal