Superior mesenteric artery
The superior mesenteric artery is a major blood vessel in the digestive system. This artery branches off of the abdominal aorta, and it services the pancreas and the lower parts of the intestine. This includes the duodenum's lower part, as well as transverse colon. The artery branches into several other blood vessels, including the inferior pancreaticoduodenal, the illeocolic,the intestinal and the right and left colic arteries. To these areas, the artery supplies blood once it has been oxygenated in the lungs and pumped through the left side of the heart. A similarly named superior mesenteric vein exists, which transports deoxygenated blood away from the digestive system. Trouble with the superior mesenteric artery may lead to two conditions: nutcracker syndrome and superior mesenteric artery syndrome. Nutcracker syndrome occurs with the artery compresses the renal vein. This is not the same as superior mesenteric artery syndrome, which involves the artery compressing the duodenum. The fatty build-up leading to atherosclerosis is not an issue with the artery as it is with other vessels in the body.
Written and medically reviewed by the Healthline Editorial Team
In Depth: Superior mesenteric artery