Mediastinum Dissection

The last few anatomy labs have been relatively easy, and today’s was no different. This morning’s agenda consisted of peering deep into the thoracic cavity uncovering the structures below the heart and lungs, particularly the vessels/nerves of the mediastinum.We located the three major branches coming off of the aortic arch (brachiocephalic trunk, left common carotid artery, and left subclavian artery) as well as the phrenic and vagus nerves. Then… we kinda stopped. Our cadaver tank is located next to the TA’s tank (which has everything dissected out very well), so we had a convenient reference to consult; however, we couldn’t find any of the other structures on our cadaver. After spending a few minutes contemplating how we could have possibly lost the trachea, esophagus, and other relatively large structures, we kept “digging in” hoping to uncover more anatomy.

Finally, we found what should have been the most difficult structure in today’s lab – the thoracic duct. This thin, almost pencil-lead sized lymphatic duct collects “garbage” from almost the entire body (except the right arm and right chest). Next, we found the trachea (offset to the left) anterior to the esophagus (offset to the right). We also studied the azygous vein system and its “backup role” for the vena cava. 🙂

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