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What blood vessels supply the heart muscle with blood?

Updated February 21, 2017

Known collectively as the "coronary arteries," there are four main branches of blood vessels that supply the heart with blood: the right marginal artery, the posterior descending artery, the circumflex artery, and the left anterior descending (LAD) artery. Flowing directly from the aorta, the coronary arteries transport freshly oxygenated blood from the lungs (via the pulmonary vein and the heart's left ventricle) to cardiac tissue.

Introduction

Known collectively as the "coronary arteries," there are four main branches of blood vessels that supply the heart with blood: the right marginal artery, the posterior descending artery, the circumflex artery, and the left anterior descending (LAD) artery. Flowing directly from the aorta, the coronary arteries transport freshly oxygenated blood from the lungs (via the pulmonary vein and the heart's left ventricle) to cardiac tissue.

The Right Coronary Artery (RCA)

Comprised of the Right Marginal Artery and the Posterior Descending Artery, the RCA supplies oxygen- and nutrient-rich blood to the heart's right atrium, right ventricle, the bottom of the left ventricle and the back of the septum. The right side of the heart takes in all of the body's oxygen-depleted blood through the Superior and Inferior Vena Cava and pumps it into the pulmonary artery. The pulmonary artery sends the blood to the lungs where it released carbon dioxide to be exhaled and absorbs oxygen from inhaled air.

The Left Main Coronary Artery (LMCA)

Branching into the Circumflex Artery and the LAD Artery, the LMCA supplies oxygen-rich blood to the heart's left atrium, left ventricle, and front of the septum. The left ventricle is lined with very strong muscles, as it must pump blood from the lungs into the aorta, which is responsible for supplying blood to the rest of the body.

Coronary Artery Disease

Because blood supplies crucial, life-sustaining oxygen to all our cells, any malfunctioning of the organ responsible for circulating it (i.e., the heart) can quickly become fatal. As such, damage or blockages within the coronary arteries---known as "coronary artery disease" (CAD)---are the leading cause of death worldwide. While most commonly associated with smoking, diabetes, and hypertension, CAD culminates in a "myocardial infarction": a sudden swelling of the coronary arteries that cuts off circulation to the heart, leading to cardiac arrest (i.e., complete heart failure).

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About the Author

A Chicago-based copywriter, Andy Pasquesi has extensive experience writing for automotive (BMW, MINI Cooper, Harley-Davidson), financial services (Ivy Funds, William Blair, T. Rowe Price, CME Group), healthcare (Abbott) and consumer goods (Sony, Motorola, Knoll) clients. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from Harvard University but does not care for the Oxford comma.