The superior mesenteric artery is a major blood vessel in the digestive system. This artery branches off the abdominal aorta and supplies oxygenated blood to the pancreas and the lower parts of the intestine. This includes the lower duodenum, as well as transverse colon.
The artery branches into several other blood vessels, including the inferior pancreaticoduodenal, the ileocolic, the intestinal, and the right and left colic arteries.
A similarly named superior mesenteric vein exists, which transports oxygen-depleted blood away from the digestive system.
There are two known pathological conditions associated with the superior mesenteric artery: nutcracker syndrome and superior mesenteric artery syndrome. Nutcracker syndrome occurs when 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 this artery as it is with other vessels in the body.