aortic arch

1. the curved portion between the ascending and descending parts of the aorta; it begins as a continuation of the ascending aorta posterior to the sternal angle, runs posteriorly and slightly to the left as it passes over the root of the left lung, and becomes the descending aorta as it reaches and begins to course along the vertebral column; it gives rise to the brachiocephalic trunk, the left common carotid and left subclavian arteries; Syn: arch of the aorta.

2. any member of the several pairs of arterial channels encircling the embryonic pharynx in the mesenchyme of the brachial arches; there are potentially six pairs, but in mammals the fifth pair is poorly developed or absent. The first and second pairs are functional only in very young embryos; the third pair is involved in the formation of the carotids; the fourth arch on the left is incorporated in the arch of the aorta; the sixth pair forms the proximal part of the pulmonary arteries. Syn: arcus aortae [NA].