Duodenum

Dr Jeremy Jones et al.

The duodenum is the first part of the small intestine and is the continuation of the stomach.

The duodenum is a 20-30 cm C-shaped hollow viscus predominantly on the right hand side of the vertebral column. It lies at the level of L1-3 and the convexity of the duodenum usually encompasses the head of the pancreas.

The duodenum begins at the duodenal bulb and ends at the ligament of Treitz, where it continues as the jejunum (this is often called the duodenojejunal or D-J flexure). It is composed of four distinct parts and is neither wholly peritoneal nor retroperitoneal.

Segments
First part (D1)

The first (superior) part of the duodenum begins as a continuation of the duodenal end of the pylorus. It passes laterally to the right, superiorly and posteriorly, for approximately 5 cm, before making a sharp curve inferiorly into the superior duodenal flexure. It is intraperitoneal for the first 2-3 cm only. Relations 3:

  • anteriorly: gallbladder, liver
  • posteriorly: common bile duct, portal vein, gastroduodenal artery
  • superiorly: epiploic foramen
  • inferiorly: pancreatic head
Second part (D2)

The second (descending) part of the duodenum begins at the superior duodenal flexure. It passes inferiorly to the lower border of vertebral body L3, before making a sharp turn medially into the inferior duodenal flexure, the end of the descending part. Relations 3:

  • anteriorly: transverse mesocolon
  • posteriorly: right kidney, right ureter, right adrenal gland
  • superiorly: liver, gallbladder (variable)
  • inferiorly: loops of jejunum
  • laterally: ascending colon, hepatic flexure, right kidney
  • medially: pancreatic head

The pancreatic duct and common bile duct enter the descending duodenum through the major duodenal papilla (ampulla of Vater). This part of the duodenum also contains the minor duodenal papilla, the entrance for the accessory pancreatic duct. The junction between the embryological foregut and midgut lies just below the major duodenal papilla.

Third part (D3)

The third (inferior/horizontal) part of the duodenum begins at the inferior duodenal flexure and passes transversely to the left, crossing the vertebral column. Relations 3:

  • anteriorly: small bowel mesentery root
  • posteriorly: right psoas muscle, right ureter, gonadal vessels, aorta and IVC
  • superiorly: pancreatic head
  • inferiorly: loops of jejunum 
Fourth part (D4)

The fourth (ascending) part passes superiorly, either anterior to, or to the right of, the aorta, until it reaches the inferior border of the body of the pancreas. Then, it curves anteriorly and terminates at the duodenojejunal flexure where it joins the jejunum. The duodenojejunal flexure is surrounded by a peritoneal fold containing muscle fibres: the ligament of Treitz. Relations 3:

  • superiorly: stomach
  • inferiorly: loops of jejunum
  • posteriorly: left psoas muscle, aorta
  • arterial supply 3
    • duodenal cap (first 2.5 cm): right gastric artery, right gastroepiploic artery
    • remaining D1 to mid-D2: superior pancreaticodudenal artery (branch of gastroduodenal artery)
    • mid-D2 to ligament of Treitz: inferior pancreaticoduodenal arteries (branch of SMA)
  • venous drainage 3
    • duodenal cap (first 2.5 cm): prepyloric vein (drains to portal vein)
    • remaining duodenum: superior pancreaticoduodenal vein (drains to portal vein) and inferior pancreaticoduodenal vein (drains to superior mesenteric vein)
  • pancreaticoduodenal nodes that drain:
    • distally to superior mesenteric nodes
    • proximally to coeliac nodes 3
  • sympathetic nerve fibres via coeliac and superior mesenteric trunks 2
  • parasympathetic nerve fibres via anterior and posterior vagal trunks 2
  • duodenal diverticulum: most commonly occurs in D2 or D3 4
  • duodenal duplication: most commonly occurs at the medial wall of D2 or D3; appear as a cystic structure that does not communicate with the lumen 4

Duodenum means "twelve" in Latin and the name derives from the thought it measures twelve finger widths in length 4.


Abdominal and pelvic anatomy
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Article Information

rID: 5719
Section: Anatomy
Synonyms or Alternate Spellings:
  • Duodenal anatomy
  • Duodenum anatomy

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Cases and Figures

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    Figure 1: pancreas and duodenum
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    Figure 2: upper abdominal organs
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    The normal positi...
    Case 1: normal position of D-J junction
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    Case 2: normal appearance on small bowel barium study
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    Case 3: D3 diverticulum
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