The Anatomy of the Celiac Trunk

First Major Artery Branch Off the Aorta

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The celiac trunk is a major artery that supplies blood to the stomach, spleen, liver, gallbladder, and pancreas. It is the first branch of the abdominal aorta, which brings blood from the heart to the lower part of the body.

The anatomy of the celiac trunk can vary from person to person. People are commonly born with anomalies or differences in the structure of the celiac trunk. Three main branches from the celiac trunk supply blood directly to the digestive organs.

In this article, you will learn the anatomy, function, and clinical significance of the celiac trunk.

Healthcare providers working on a CT scan

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The celiac trunk is a short artery that branches out of the largest artery of the body, the aorta. It is about 0.5–0.75 inches long and less than 0.5 inches in diameter.

The celiac trunk divides into the left gastric artery, the common hepatic artery, and the splenic artery. These divisions supply blood to major organs of the digestive system.


The celiac trunk is located right around the level of your bottom rib, or T12 vertebra. It branches out from the aorta just below the median arcuate ligament, a band of tough elastic tissue that wraps around the aorta and attaches the diaphragm to the spine.

In some people, the median arcuate ligament can form at a lower spot and compress the celiac trunk. This condition is known as median arcuate ligament syndrome (MALS). MALS affects the gastrointestinal system and can cause symptoms such as diarrhea, nausea, and weight loss.

Anatomical Variations

The celiac artery normally branches out into a true tripod of the left gastric, common hepatic, and splenic arteries. However, anomalies or differences in this tripod of branches can occur during fetal development.

Some people will have additional branches, missing branches, or branches that form in another location.

These variations often do not cause symptoms and do not affect the function of the arteries. However, these variations are important for healthcare providers and surgeons to note so they can navigate the body safely as they perform surgery or conduct tests.


The celiac trunk supplies blood to several major organs of the digestive system, including the lower part of the esophagus, liver, pancreas, gallbladder, and spleen through its three major branches.

The three major branches of the celiac trunk do the following:

  • Left gastric artery: This artery supplies blood to the right side of the stomach and the lower esophagus.
  • Common hepatic artery: This artery has many branches that supply blood to the liver, the exit of the stomach (pylorus), gallbladder, pancreas, and the first part of the small intestine (duodenum).
  • Splenic artery: This artery brings blood to the left side and top of the stomach and the pancreas and spleen. The splenic artery ends at the spleen.

Clinical Significance

Several conditions can affect the celiac trunk.

Median arcuate ligament syndrome (MALS): MALS occurs when the ligament that attaches the diaphragm to the spine compresses the celiac artery. It is a rare disorder that causes gastrointestinal symptoms such as abdominal pain and weight loss.

MALS is diagnosed by imaging technology such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or a computed tomography (CT) scan. It can be treated with various surgical options.

Celiac aneurysm: A celiac aneurysm is an extremely rare and serious occurrence that causes a ballooning weak spot in the artery that can rupture. Aneurysms that are caught early can be treated with surgical repair or embolization that stops the flow of blood to the weakened area. A rupture is a serious condition that can lead to death.

Celiac trunk dissection: A celiac trunk dissection, in which a tear in the artery occurs, is also extremely rare. People with a celiac trunk dissection may experience extreme abdominal pain without any gastric distress such as vomiting or diarrhea.

Treatment varies from person to person and can include blood pressure management and repair of the tear.

Peptic ulcer disease: Ulcers of the stomach can appear in the areas that are supplied with blood by the celiac trunk. These can cause pain while eating. In more severe cases, internal bleeding may occur. Treatment depends on the cause and mainly includes medication and lifestyle changes. Surgery may be needed in severe cases.


The celiac trunk is the first branch off of the abdominal aorta and is located at the bottom rib. It is responsible for supplying blood to major digestive organs—the pancreas, liver, gallbladder, and spleen. There are three main branches of the celiac artery, the left gastric, common hepatic, and splenic.

The celiac trunk is associated with several rare conditions—MALS, celiac aneurysm, celiac trunk dissection—and the more common, peptic ulcers.

7 Sources
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