Reference > Anatomy of the Human Body > Page 499
Henry Gray (1825–1861).  Anatomy of the Human Body.  1918.
iliac, femoral, and carotid, elastic fibers unite to form lamellæ which alternate with the layers of muscular fibers; these lamellæ are united to one another by elastic fibers which pass between the muscular bundles, and are connected with the fenestrated membrane of the inner coat (Fig. 450). In the largest arteries, as the aorta and innominate, the amount of elastic tissue is very considerable; in these vessels a few bundles of white connective tissue also have been found in the middle coat. The muscle fiber cells are about 50μ in length and contain well-marked, rod-shaped nuclei, which are often slightly curved.
  The external coat (tunica adventitia) consists mainly of fine and closely felted bundles of white connective tissue, but also contains elastic fibers in all but the smallest arteries. The elastic tissue is much more abundant next the tunica media, and it is sometimes described as forming here, between the adventitia and media, a special layer, the tunica elastica externa of Henle. This layer is most marked in arteries of medium size. In the largest vessels the external coat is relatively thin; but in small arteries it is of greater proportionate thickness. In the smaller arteries it consists of a single layer of white connective tissue and elastic fibers; while in the smallest arteries, just above the capillaries, the elastic fibers are wanting, and the connective tissue of which the coat is composed becomes more nearly homogeneous the nearer it approaches the capillaries, and is gradually reduced to a thin membranous envelope, which finally disappears.
  Some arteries have extremely thin walls in proportion to their size; this is especially the case in those situated in the cavity of the cranium and vertebral canal, the difference depending on the thinness of the external and middle coats.
  The arteries, in their distribution throughout the body, are included in thin fibro-areolar investments, which form their sheaths. The vessel is loosely connected with its sheath by delicate areolar tissue; and the sheath usually encloses the accompanying veins, and sometimes a nerve. Some arteries, as those in the cranium, are not included in sheaths.

FIG. 449– Small artery and vein, pia mater of sheep. X 250. Surface view above the interrupted line; longitudinal section below. Artery in red; vein in blue, (See enlarged image)

  All the larger arteries, like the other organs of the body, are supplied with bloodvessels. These nutrient vessels, called the vasa vasorum, arise from a branch of the artery, or from a neighboring vessel, at some considerable distance from the point at which they are distributed; they ramify in the loose areolar tissue connecting the artery with its sheath, and are distributed to the external coat, but do not, in man, penetrate the other coats; in some of the larger mammals a few vessels have been traced into the middle coat. Minute veins return the blood from these vessels; they empty themselves into the vein or veins accompanying the artery. Lymphatic vessels are also present in the outer coat.
  Arteries are also supplied with nerves, which are derived from the sympathetic, but may pass through the cerebrospinal nerves. They form intricate plexuses upon the surfaces of the larger trunks, and run along the smaller arteries as single filaments, or bundles of filaments which twist around the vessel and unite with each other in a plexiform manner. The branches derived from these plexuses penetrate the external coat and are distributed principally to the muscular tissue of the middle coat, and thus regulate, by causing the contraction and relaxation of this tissue the amount of blood sent to any part.

The Capillaries.—The smaller arterial branches (excepting those of the cavernous structure of the sexual organs, of the splenic pulp, and of the placenta) terminate in net-works of vessels which pervade nearly every tissue of the body. These vessels, from their minute size, are termed capillaries. They are interposed between the smallest branches of the arteries and the commencing veins, constituting a net-work, the branches of which maintain the same diameter throughout; the meshes of the net-work are more uniform in shape and size than those formed by the anastomoses of the small arteries and veins.
  The diameters of the capillaries vary in the different tissues of the body, the usual size being about 8μ. The smallest are those of the brain and the mucous membrane of the intestines; and the largest those of the skin and the marrow of bone, where they are stated to be as large as 20μ in diameter. The form of the capillary net varies in the different tissues, the meshes being generally rounded or elongated.
  The rounded form of mesh is most common, and prevails where there is a dense network, as in the lungs, in most glands and mucous membranes, and in the cutis; the meshes are not of an absolutely circular outline, but more or less angular, sometimes nearly quadrangular, or polygonal, or more often irregular.


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