branchial arch arteries (embryology)

Last reviewed 01/2018

The branchial arch arteries are a series of embryonic vessels derived from the aortic sac, the distal extension of the truncus arteriosus of the primitive heart. On each side, they are associated with the branchial - pharyngeal - arches. Six pairs of arteries develop, each within the mesenchyme of their respective branchial arches e.g. the third branchial arch arteries are associated with the third branchial arches. They develop in a cranial to caudal direction over time, but due to regression and modification of some, the arteries are never together as a complete set of six pairs.

During gestation, they function to link the heart with paired dorsal aortae which are the main routes of arterial blood flow to the embryo. There is a great deal of transformation of the arteries - detailed for each pair in the submenu - such that they from a range of structures in the circulation after birth.