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Anatomy Of The Lymphatic System

Written by Amy Hall
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A Brief Overview of the Anatomy of the Lymphatic System

The anatomy of the lymphatic system is constructed with one purpose in mind, which is to transport "waste materials" from the interstitial tissues back into the blood system. These materials, also called lymphatic loads, consist of protein, water, cells and fat, are drained by the various vascular structures of the lymphatic system and filtered by a large number of regional and central lymph nodes before they enter the venous system. Part of these waste materials are also cell products and cell residues including foreign materials.

Initial lymphatic system: Lymph vessels start in almost every tissue as lymph capillaries. These initial lymphatics are made up of endothelial cells which overlap each other. Capillaries do not have a continuous connection like blood capillary endothelial cells do. A surrounding fiber net, anchoring filaments, arranged around the lymph capillaries, enables these small vessels to stay open, even under high tissue pressure.

More of the Lymphatic System

Lymph capillaries collect lymphatic loads from the interstitial areas and gradually join together into bigger lymph vessels, so-called precollectors which then drain into collectors. Collectors: One segment of a lymph collector is called lymph angion. Contractions of smooth muscles situated in each lymph angion, generate the propulsive force of the lymph flow. The pumping is aided by a large number of valves located inside the collectors which allow the lymph flow in only one direction.

After passing a large number of lymph nodes, where foreign substances like bacteria are filtered out and necessary immune reactions are activated, the lymph fluid empties into the venous system, mainly via the thoracic duct. The thoracic duct is the largest lymph vessel of the body; under physiological conditions approximately 1-2 liters of lymph fluid drain in 24 hours via the thoracic duct into the left venous angle, formed by the left internal jugular and the left subclavian vein. This is a very basic overview of the anatomy of the lymphatic system, and we will later discuss lymphatic conditions such as lymphedema and CVI (Chronic Venous Insufficiency).


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