Umbilical cord

Last revised by Andrew Murphy on 31 Jul 2022

The umbilical cord is a fetal organ that connects the placenta to the developing fetus and is a vital passage for nutrients, oxygen and waste products to and from the fetus.

Gross anatomy

The umbilical cord inserts into the center of the placental bulk and into the fetus at the umbilicus. Variations in insertion can occur. For example, eccentric insertion, marginal insertion and velamentous insertion may be seen 1. It measures 55-60 cm in length with a thickness of 2.0-2.5 cm 3. The normal cord has two arteries and one vein 2-3:

  • paired umbilical arteries (branches of the internal iliac artery) carry deoxygenated blood from the fetus to the placenta
  • umbilical vein carries oxygenated blood from the placenta to the fetus

Related pathology

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Cases and figures

  • Figure 1: umbilical cord (photo)
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  • FIgure 2: umbilical cord (histology)
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  • Figure 3: normal central cord insertion
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  • Case 1: marginal cord insertion
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  • Case 2: velamentous cord insertion
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