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Anatomy Of The Esophagus

Discover the fascinating inner workings of the esophagus and gain a deeper understanding of this crucial organ's role in the digestive system.

Anatomy of the Esophagus


The esophagus is a muscular tube that connects the throat (pharynx) to the stomach. It plays a crucial role in the digestive system as it transports food and liquids from the mouth to the stomach for further digestion and absorption. Understanding the anatomy of the esophagus is essential for medical professionals, especially for those preparing for the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE). This guide aims to provide a comprehensive overview of the anatomy of the esophagus, covering its structure, blood supply, innervation, and histology.


  • The esophagus is approximately 25 cm (10 inches) long and extends from the cricoid cartilage in the neck to the cardiac orifice of the stomach in the abdomen.
  • It is divided into three parts: cervical, thoracic, and abdominal.
  • The cervical part is the uppermost portion and is located within the neck.
  • The thoracic part passes through the thoracic cavity, posterior to the trachea and heart.
  • The abdominal part pierces the diaphragm and enters the abdominal cavity, ending at the cardiac orifice of the stomach.

Blood Supply

  • The arterial blood supply to the esophagus comes from branches of the thoracic aorta.
  • The cervical part receives blood primarily from branches of the inferior thyroid artery.
  • The thoracic part is supplied by esophageal branches of the thoracic aorta.
  • The abdominal part receives blood from the left gastric artery and inferior phrenic arteries.


  • Innervation of the esophagus is complex and involves both sympathetic and parasympathetic pathways.
  • Sympathetic innervation arises from the sympathetic chain ganglia and follows the course of the esophagus.
  • Parasympathetic innervation comes from the vagus nerve (specifically, the anterior and posterior vagal trunks).
  • The vagus nerve provides both motor and sensory innervation to the esophagus, controlling its peristaltic movements.


  • The wall of the esophagus consists of four layers: mucosa, submucosa, muscularis externa, and adventitia/serosa.
  • The mucosa is composed of non-keratinized stratified squamous epithelium, which protects the esophagus from mechanical and chemical damage.
  • The submucosa contains esophageal glands that secrete mucus to aid in lubrication.
  • The muscularis externa consists of an inner circular layer and an outer longitudinal layer of smooth muscle, enabling peristalsis for food propulsion.
  • The adventitia covers the esophagus in the cervical and thoracic parts, while the abdominal part is covered by serosa due to its intraperitoneal location.


Having a solid understanding of the anatomy of the esophagus is crucial for medical professionals, especially for those preparing for the USMLE. This guide has provided an informative overview of the esophagus, including its structure, blood supply, innervation, and histology. Remember to review and consolidate this knowledge to excel in your USMLE examination.

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