Role of the vagus nerve and its recurrent laryngeal branch in the development of the human ductus arteriosus

M. E. Leonard, G. M. Hutchins, G. W. Moore

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    Abstract

    The reason that the normal ductus arteriosus has a muscular media, contrasting with the elastic lamellar structure of the adjacent great arteries, is unknown. We examined the hypothesis that the anatomic relationship of the ductus arteriosus to the vagus and recurrent laryngeal nerves during early development might be of importance in influencing ductal morphology. Normal human embryos from the Carnegie Embryological Collection and embryos and fetuses from the Hopkins Pathology Collection were studied microscopically, by reconstructions made from serial histologic sections, or by gross dissection. At Carnegie stage 16 the recurrent laryngeal nerves pass medially from the vagus nerve to the laryngeal area and are caudal to the bilaterally symmetric sixth aortic arches. By stage 18 the right sixth aortic arch has disappeared and the left sixth aortic arch is in a more caudal position relative to the larynx. The left vagus nerve and its recurrent laryngeal branch form a sling supporting the distal (or ductus arteriosus component) of the left sixth aortic arch. In subsequent development there is greater relative separation of the larynx and ductus arteriosus. The media of the ductus arteriosus beneath the supporting nerves is thinner and has less elastic fiber formation than the elastic lamellar media of the adjacent aortic arches. The study shows that the vagus and recurrent laryngeal nerves are in a position to provide mechanical support to the ductus arteriosus during its development and that the morphology of the media of the supported ductus arteriosus differs from that of the adjacent unsupported aortic arches. It is suggested that this local mechanical support may be the reason that the normal ductus arteriosus differentiates as a muscular artery and is therefore able to obliterate its lumen in postnatal life. Without such support the ductal media could develop the abundant elastic fibers characteristic of the normal unsupported aorta and pulmonary trunk and become an abnormal, persistently patent ductus arteriosus.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)313-327
    Number of pages15
    JournalAmerican Journal of Anatomy
    Volume167
    Issue number3
    StatePublished - 1983

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Anatomy

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