Spinal Blood Supply

Peer Reviewed

The function of the vascular system is to nourish each cell in the body. This includes the vertebral column, spinal cord, neural elements, muscles, and other related structures.

Blood and Its Importance
Blood contains plasma (fluid), red blood cells (erythrocytes), white bloods cells, and platelets.

Plasma – Cell Nourishment
Plasma, the liquid part of blood, makes up 90% of blood and contains water, salts, hormones, and proteins. It delivers proteins, fats, minerals, and lipids to every cell in the body. Cells cannot reproduce or repair damage without nutrient replenishment.

Vascular System of the Spine
spine?s vascular system

Red = Artery
Blue = Vein

1 Carotid Artery
2 Aortic Arch
3 Thoracic Aorta
4 Abdominal Aorta
5 Iliac Artery
6 Internal Jugular Vein
7 Superior Vena Cava
8 Inferior Vena Cava
9 Iliac Vein

Oxygen – Red Blood Cells
One of the primary benefits cells derive from blood is oxygen. Cells need oxygen to burn glucose for energy. This oxygen comes from the red blood cells. Oxygenated blood is pumped from the heart via arteries and deoxygenated blood returns to the heart via veins. The Pulmonary Artery is an exception. It carries deoxygenated blood from the heart to the lungs where it is reoxygenated. The Pulmonary Vein then carries the oxygenated blood back to the heart from the lungs. The oxygenated blood is then circulated throughout the body.

Immunity – White Blood Cells
White cells are the primary components of the immune system and fight against infection and bacterial toxins. There are many types of white blood cells; neutrophils, eosinophils, lymphocytes, basophils, and monocytes – each playing a different role. Further, antibodies are transported via the circulatory system.

Clotting – Platelets
Platelets control bleeding from injury by creating a clot, or plug through a series of chemical reactions.

The spinal column is served by the body’s elaborate system of arteries and veins, as outlined in the following tables.

Arteries Supplying Spinal Column


Arteries Region
Vertebral Cervical (Head)
Basilar Basilar Cervical (Head)
Carotid Cervical/Thoracic
Thoracic Aorta Thoracic cavity
Intercostal Thoracic wall
Spinal Branch Thoracic/Lumbar
Anterior Spinal Thoracic/Lumbar
Abdominal Aorta Thoracic/Lumbar cavities
Posterior Branch Thoracic to Sacrum
Lumbar Segmental Lumbar
Left Common Iliac Lumbar/pelvic organs, legs
Right Common Iliac Lumbar/pelvic organs, legs
Segmental Lumbar to Sacrum
Middle Sacral Lumbosacral
Iliolumbar Lumbosacral
Internal Iliac Lumbosacral

Circle of Willis
The Vertebral and Internal Carotid Arteries provide blood to the brain. These arteries give off branches that form a circle in the region of the pituitary gland. If the other two arteries are blocked, the blood vessels in the Circle of Willis provide an alternate way to feed blood to the brain.

Veins Supplying Spinal Column

Veins Region/Comment
Internal Jugular Cervical – returns blood from the head
External Jugular Cervical – returns blood from the head
Superior Vena Cava Cervical/Upper Thoracic Returns blood from upper body to heart
Thoracic Segmental Thoracic
Inferior Vena Cava Thoracic/Lumbosacral Returns blood from lower body to heart
Azygous Lumbar – Returns blood from lower body when inferior vena cava obstructed
Hemiazygous Lumbar
Lumbar Segmental Lumbar
Left Common Iliac Lumbar
Right Common Iliac Lumbar
Batson’s Plexus Lumbar – Valveless vein, provides alternate route for blood return to heart
Common Iliac Lumbosacral

Arterial Branches of the Spine

Artery Spinal Region Source – Branch From
Anterior Radicular Meninges
Spinal Cord
Posterior Intercostal
Lateral Sacral
Anterior Spinal Meninges
Spinal Cord
Posterior Intercostal
Lateral Sacral
Aortic Arch Entire Body Except Heart Ascending Aorta
Basilar Cranial Nerves
Brachiocephalic Trunk Right side of head, neck, upper limb, chest wall Aortic Arch
Cerebral Arterial Circle Brain – Midbrain Posterior Cerebral
Anterior Cerebral
Common Carotid Head – upper neck Brachiocephalic Trunk
Aortic Arch
External Carotid Upper neck Common Carotid
Great Anterior Radicular Lower Spinal Cord Lower Posterior Intercostal
Internal Carotid Brain Common Carotid
Lateral Sacral Sacrum
Sacral Nerve Roots
Internal Iliac
Lumbar Spinal Cord
Vertebral Column
Abdominal Aorta
Median Sacral Sacrum Abdominal Aorta
Middle Meningeal Dura Mater Maxillary
Posterior Radicular Meninges, Spinal Cord Vertebral
Posterior Intercostal
Lateral Sacral
Posterior Spinal Spinal Cord Posterior Inferior Cerebellar
Vertebral Posterior Intercostal
Lateral Sacral
Subclavian Neck
Spinal Cord
Aortic Arch
Vertebral Spinal Cord

Venous Branches of the Spine

Vein Spinal Region Source(s)
Anterior Jugular Neck Submental
Azygos Chest Wall Lumbar
Posterior Intercostal
Brachiocephalic Head
Upper Limbs
Internal Jugular
Cavernous Sinus Brain Superior Ophthalmic
Middle Cerebral
External Jugular Head
Posterior Auricular
Posterior External Jugular
Transverse Cervical
Anterior Jugular
External Vertebral Plexus Vertebral Column
Vertebral Muscles
Internal Vertebral Plexus
Hemiazygos Lower Chest Wall Lumbar
Internal Vertebral Plexus Spinal Cord
Vertebral Column
External Vertebral Plexus
Posterior Intercostal Spinal Cord
Spinal Tributary
Posterior Tributary
Pterygoid Plexus Meninges Middle Meningeal


Updated on: 08/31/15
Continue Reading
Spinal Discs Connect and Protect Vertebrae
Mary Rodts, DNP
Understanding the terminology associated with spinal problems is very important as health care providers discuss the problems and the solutions for the spinal disorder with patients and families. This article helps clarify a difficult topic.
Continue Reading:

Spinal Discs Connect and Protect Vertebrae

The spine's discs sit between each vertebra. They are tough on the outside with a softer, gel-like fluid inside. Each time you move the spine, the discs change shape in relation to the movement. Like so many structures in the body, discs are multifunctional. Anatomical illustrations are included.
Read More