What is Anastomosis? - Definition & Types

Instructor: Danielle Haak

Danielle has a PhD in Natural Resource Sciences and a MSc in Biological Sciences

Anastomosis is the medical term for a connection between two structures in the body. This lesson will explain the different types that exist, like natural, surgical, and abnormal anastomosis.

Anastomosis: Defined

Last year, my dad had coronary artery bypass surgery. Although I knew it was a serious procedure, I wasn't exactly sure what it actually meant, so I did a little research. Apparently, he had blockages in the blood vessels around his heart, and these blockages limited the amount of blood successfully reaching his heart. As a result, a surgeon had to 'open' his chest to re-route blood around these blocked regions. This is done by taking a healthy blood vessel from another part of the body and attaching it to the affected arteries near his heart. Without going into too much detail, this created a new artery blood could flow through, thus completely avoiding the blocked areas. This connection of arteries is one example of anastomosis.

Anastomosis is a connection that occurs between two structures in the body. Usually these structures are hollow or tubular in shape, like the blood vessels I mentioned above. We can categorize anastomosis into three different types, so let's take a look.

Types of Anastomosis

The first type of anastomosis is naturally occurring anastomosis. This means different structures are connected automatically by the normal layout of the body. If we look at the circulatory system, we see many examples of veins and arteries that are naturally connected to each other, helping the body function by transporting blood and nutrients to all the cells, tissues, and organs that need it.

Different blood vessels are naturally connected in one example of anastomosis.
natural connections among blood vessels

The second type of anastomosis is a connection formed through surgical intervention. For example, my dad's bypass surgery joined two blood vessels that weren't previously connected - this is an artificial connection made possible by a surgical procedure.

In addition to surgically connecting blood vessels, anastomosis can also occur in parts of the gastrointestinal tract and the urinary tract. For example, if parts of the bowel need to be removed, the problem area can be surgically removed, and the two newly recreated 'ends' can be joined together. Naturally, these two pieces of the body would never connect, but surgically, the match can be made.

An organ transplant is another type of surgical anastomosis. Think about it -- an entire organ, like a heart, is placed into the body, but it's useless unless it's connected to all the necessary parts, just like the original heart was. This means that all of those blood vessels need to be surgically joined to the new heart so that it can pick up where the old one left off. These connections are all examples of surgical anastomosis.

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