vagus nerve (thoracic cardiac branch, anatomy)

Last reviewed 01/2018

Within the thorax, the inferior cardiac nerves are branches of the right vagus nerve, and to a lesser extent the recurrent laryngeal nerves. They supply general visceral motor parasympathetic fibres to the deep cardiac plexuses.

They are derived from the:

  • right vagus nerve: branch off at the level of the right subclavian artery to pass inferiorly on the anterior surface of the trachea posterior to the aortic arch
  • right recurrent laryngeal nerve: branch off more superiorly than the fibres direct from the vagus, typically in the mid-section of the trachea; fibres run inferiorly and medially to the anterior surface of the tracheal bifurcation
  • left recurrent laryngeal nerve: fibres originate at the same level as the right side but descend more laterally within the tracheo-oesophageal groove to the deep cardiac plexuses