Rush Center for Congenital
and Structural Heart Disease




Aortic arch arteries

The first pair of aortic arches is formed by the curving of the ventral aorta to meet the dorsal aorta; these regress and small portions persist to contribute to part of the maxillary arteries bilaterally (table 2).  The second pair of aortic arch arteries appears in week four; these also regress and only portion is left which forms the stapedial and hyoid arteries.  The third pair of aortic arch arteries appears around the end of the fourth week.  These will give rise to the common carotid arteries and proximal portion of the internal carotid arteries.  The external carotid arteries are sprouts from the common carotid arteries.  The distal portions of the internal carotid arteries are formed by the cranial portions of the dorsal aorta.  The fourth aortic arch arteries develop soon after the third arch arteries.  The development of the fourth aortic arch is asymmetrical; on the left side it persists connecting the ventral aorta to the dorsal aorta, forming the aortic arch.  On the right it forms the proximal portion of the right subclavian artery.  The fifth pair of aortic arch arteries is rudimentary and do not develop into any known vessels, this pair of aortic arch arteries is not seen in many embryo specimens.  The fifth aortic arch artery may persist in the form of double barrel aortic arch.  The sixth aortic arch arteries develop in the middle of the fifth week of development.  The proximal portions develop into the main and right pulmonary arteries, while the distal portion of the left aortic arch artery develop into the ductus arteriosus.  (Figure 14)


Figure 14

Aortic arch arteries and the final great vessels anatomy:
AAA: aortic arch arteries.  It is important to note that various aortic arch arteries do not coexist simultaneously, earlier ones degenerate as newer aortic arch arteries form.


Table 2

Derivatives of various aortic arch arteries and other embryonic arterial structures

Arterial Structures

Symmetry of derivative arteries

Arterial Structures

First aortic arches


Part of maxillary arteries bilaterally

Second aortic arches


Stapedial and hyoid arteries bilaterally

Third aortic arches


Common carotid arteries and proximal portion of internal carotid arteries bilaterally

Fourth aortic arches


Right: Proximal portion of the right subclavian artery

Left: aortic arch

Fifth aortic arch


Completely regress

Sixth aortic arch


Right: proximal right pulmonary artery

Left: proximal left pulmonary artery, ductus arteriosus

Truncus arteriosus


Main pulmonary artery and ascending aorta

Seventh intersegmental arteries


Right distal subclavian artery and left proximal and distal subclavian artery. Right proximal subclavian artery develops from portion of dorsal aorta.