Histology of normal aortas in birds with emphasis on intimal thickening

L. Clarke Stout, Larry W. Thorpe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Published studies of normal aortic structure have been infrequent in birds despite a high prevalence of spontaneous atherosclerosis relative to mammals, and, a feeling that this prevalence of atherosclerosis might be related to the pecularities of aortic structure in birds. We describe aortic structure in 26 birds, including 22 species and 12 families. All aortas had a complex structure similar to that of the White Carneau pigeon which has been carefully studied. Diffuse intimal thickening (DIT) was found in the elastic zones in 22 of the 26 aortas. This lesion has not been previously described as such, and consisted of multiple longitudinally oriented elastic laminae apparently synthesized by interlamellar connective tissue cells, the latter being peculiar to the avian aorta. Focal intimal thickenings were very common in the non-elastic zones of the aortas, and were composed of smooth muscle cells and elastic laminae similar to the DIT of mammals. Their location suggested that blood flow patterns might be an important influence in their development. The fact that atherosclerotic lesions usually occurred in the non-elastic zones of the avian aorta suggested that some property of the elastic zone or the interlamellar connective tissue cells might inhibit the development of atherosclerosis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)545-558
Number of pages14
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1980


  • Birds
  • Diffuse intimal thickening
  • Histology
  • Normal aorta
  • Spontaneous atherosclerosis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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