Tunica media

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Tunica media
Illu artery.jpg
Artery wall
Transverse section through a small artery and vein of the mucous membrane of the epiglottis of a child. (Tunica media is at 'm')
Latin tunica media vasorum
Gray's subject #133 498
MeSH Tunica+Media
Dorlands/Elsevier t_22/12831907

Editor-In-Chief: C. Michael Gibson, M.S., M.D. [1]

The tunica media (or just media) is the middle layer of an artery or vein.[1]


It is made up of smooth muscle cells and elastic tissue. It lies between the tunica intima on the inside and the tunica adventitia on the outside.

The middle coat (tunica media) is distinguished from the inner by its color and by the transverse arrangement of its fibers.

  • In the smaller arteries it consists principally of plain muscle fibers in fine bundles, arranged in lamellæ and disposed circularly around the vessel. These lamellæ vary in number according to the size of the vessel; the smallest arteries having only a single layer[2], and those slightly larger three or four layers. It is to this coat that the thickness of the wall of the artery is mainly due.
  • In the larger arteries, as the iliac, femoral, and carotid, elastic fibers unite to form lamellæ which alternate with the layers of muscular fibers; these lamellæ are united to one another by elastic fibers which pass between the muscular bundles, and are connected with the fenestrated membrane of the inner coat.
  • In the largest arteries, as the aorta[3] and brachiocephalic , the amount of elastic tissue is very considerable; in these vessels a few bundles of white connective tissue also have been found in the middle coat. The muscle fiber cells are about 50μ in length and contain well-marked, rod-shaped nuclei, which are often slightly curved.


The middle coat is composed of a thick layer of connective tissue with elastic fibers, intermixed, in some veins, with a transverse layer of muscular tissue. [4]

The white fibrous element is in considerable excess, and the elastic fibers are in much smaller proportion in the veins than in the arteries.

Additional images

See also


  1. Histology image: 05102loa – Histology Learning System at Boston University
  2. Histology image: 21103loa – Histology Learning System at Boston University
  3. Histology at OU 66_02 - "Aorta"
  4. Histology image: 05603loa – Histology Learning System at Boston University

External links

This article was originally based on an entry from a public domain edition of Gray's Anatomy. As such, some of the information contained herein may be outdated. Please edit the article if this is the case, and feel free to remove this notice when it is no longer relevant.