What is the anatomy of the vagal innervation of the abdominal viscera and how does it affect surgical procedures for peptic ulcer disease (PUD)?

Updated: Apr 26, 2021
  • Author: BS Anand, MD; Chief Editor: Philip O Katz, MD, FACP, FACG  more...
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Answer

Because many surgical procedures for peptic ulcer disease entail some type of vagotomy, a discussion concerning the vagal innervation of the abdominal viscera is appropriate (see image below). The left (anterior) and the right (posterior) branches of the vagus nerve descend along either side of the distal esophagus. As they enter the lower thoracic cavity, they can communicate with each other through several cross-branches that comprise the esophageal plexus. However, below this plexus, the two vagal trunks again become separate and distinct before the anterior trunk branches to form the hepatic, pyloric, and anterior gastric (also termed the anterior nerve of Latarjet) branches. The posterior trunk branches to form the posterior gastric branch (also termed the posterior nerve of Latarjet) and the celiac branch.

The parietal cell mass of the stomach is segmentally innervated by the terminal branches from each of the anterior and posterior gastric branches. These terminal branches are divided during highly selective vagotomy. The gallbladder is innervated from efferent branches of the hepatic division of the anterior trunk. Consequently, transection of the anterior vagus trunk (performed during truncal vagotomy) can result in a dilated gallbladder with inhibited contractility and subsequent cholelithiasis. The celiac branch of the posterior vagus innervates the entire midgut (with the exception of the gallbladder). Thus, division of the posterior trunk during truncal vagotomy may contribute to postoperative ileus.

Peptic ulcer disease. Vagal innervation of the sto Peptic ulcer disease. Vagal innervation of the stomach.

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