Arteries and Veins that Feed the Heart - dummies

Arteries and Veins that Feed the Heart

By David Terfera, Shereen Jegtvig

It needs its own nutrient and oxygen supply so it can keep beating every day, all day long. A complex system of veins and arteries keep the heart supplied with blood and allow the blood to circulate through the body.

Coronary arteries supply the heart with oxygenated blood. The right coronary artery starts from the right aortic sinus and travels through the coronary sulcus located between the right atrium and ventricle. It has four branches:

  • Sinoatrial nodal artery: Supplies the sinoatrial node

  • Right marginal artery: Runs to the inferior part of the heart and apex and serves the right ventricle

  • Posterior interventricular artery: Runs to the apex via the posterior interventricular groove located on the surface of the heart between the ventricles and supplies blood to both ventricles and the posterior portion of the septum

  • Atrioventricular nodal artery: Supplies blood to the atrioventricular node

The left coronary artery leaves the left aortic sinus and runs through the atrioventricular groove that’s located between the atria and ventricles on the surface of the heart. Here are three branches:

  • Anterior interventricular artery: Runs along the anterior interventricular groove to the apex; provides blood to the right and left ventricles and anterior part of the interventricular septum

  • Circumflex artery: Runs to the posterior part of the heart, and it provides blood to the left atrium and left ventricle

  • Left marginal artery: Runs on the left side of the heart to provide blood to the left ventricle

Coronary heart disease is the narrowing of the coronary arteries caused by the buildup of plaque within the walls. This results in decreased blood flow (and decreased oxygen) to the heart muscles. A myocardial infarction, or heart attack, can occur when blockage of a coronary artery results in damage to the heart musculature. The symptoms of a myocardial infarction include chest pain that may feel like squeezing or pressure on the chest. Pain may also be present in other parts of the body, including the shoulder and arm (usually on the left), belly, neck, or jaw. Can you prevent a heart attack? Family history is a factor, but the risk can be reduced by lowering elevated blood pressure, addressing high cholesterol levels, losing weight, not smoking, exercising, and eating a healthy diet.

Most of the veins that drain blood from the heart muscles and structures empty into the coronary sinus, which is the main vein of the heart. It runs along the backside of the heart. The veins that flow into the coronary sinus include the great, middle, and small cardiac veins, the left posterior ventricular vein, and the left marginal vein.


Small anterior cardiac veins empty directly into the right atrium, and the smallest cardiac veins drain into all four chambers but mostly the atria.