cardiac plexus (superficial, anatomy)

Last reviewed 01/2018

The superficial cardiac plexus is an anatomical division of the cardiac plexus; it is smaller than the more posterior deep cardiac plexus. Physiologically, the superficial and deep plexuses are in continuity via fine nerve fibres.

The superficial cardiac plexus is sited on the inferior surface of the arch of the aorta. It is contributed to by both post-ganglionic sympathetic and pre-ganglionic parasympathetic nerves:

  • left inferior cervical cardiac nerve, a branch of the left vagus nerve
  • left superior cervical sympathetic nerve derived from the left cervical sympathetic ganglia

These fibres pass inferiorly over the arch of the aorta before amassing inferior to it and slightly anteromedial to the ligamentum arteriosum within the ganglion of Wrisberg. At this point, the left phrenic nerve lies medially and the vagal nerve lies laterally. The pulmonary artery lies posteriorly.

The distribution of nerve fibres from the plexus to the heart is considered within the submenu.