Background/aims: We examined the three-dimensional structures of the hepatic artery.
Materials/methods: A 39-year-old man who died of brain hemorrhage was autopsied. The liver was perfused with physiological saline and 20% formalin from the hepatic artery and portal vein. More than 700 serial sections were obtained from a paraffin-embedded block, and vascular reconstruction was performed under a light microscope.
Results: The hepatic artery divides into the axial artery and the peribiliary branch given off from it. These two systems also connect to each other by a few anastomoses. The former systematically supplies arterial blood to all the parenchymal liver cells. The latter forms two layers of plexes around the bile duct. The inner capillary layer is afferent and the outer vascular layer is efferent to the bile duct.
Conclusion: To maintain constant sinusoidal blood flow, the terminal portions of the axial arteries may contract and thereby divert blood to peribiliary branches through bifurcations and anastomoses. The blood flow of the peribiliary capillary plexus may affect bile flow. The hepatic artery may act as a functional mediator between portal flow and bile excretion.