Bronchial artery

Dr Aditya Shetty and Dr Jeremy Jones et al.

The bronchial arteries are responsible for the majority of the oxygenated blood supply to the lung parenchyma. The classic pattern described below of two bronchial arteries on the left and one on the right is found in ~ 70% of patients. 

Gross anatomy

The bronchial arteries typically arise from the thoracic aorta at the T3-T8 levels with ~ 70% (range 64-80%) arising from the T5-T6 level 5.

Left bronchial arteries

There are usually two bronchial arteries on the left that arise directly from the anterior surface of the thoracic aorta:

  • superior left bronchial artery: arises from the anteromedial surface of the aortic arch, lateral to the carina and posterior to the left main bronchus
  • inferior left bronchial artery: also arises from the aorta and is parallel to the superior artery, but inferior to the left main bronchus
Right bronchial artery

The right bronchial artery has a common origin with an intercostal artery and this is called the intercostobronchial trunk (ICBT) and arises from the right posterolateral aspect of the thoracic aorta. 


Variant anatomy


Ectopic origin is present in ~20% (range 8.3-35%) of patients and is defined when they arise from the aorta outside of the level from superior endplate of T5 to inferior endplate of T6 1,5.

The bronchial arteries may arise from a wide range of arteries including 1,5: 

Branching patterns
  • common brachial artery trunk (i.e. for both left and right bronchial arteries)
  • single bronchial artery bilaterally (i.e. one left and one right)
  • single bronchial artery on the left and two bronchial arteries on the right (one ICBT)
  • left bronchial artery less commonly has its origin from an ICBT

Related pathology

Related articles

Thoracic anatomy

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