Small Intestine

The microlymphatics of the small intestine consist of three layers of lymphatics that are located in the villi, the submucosa, and the smooth muscle surrounding the submucosa (Fig. 6) [2,6]. Each villus has a lymphatic ending called a lacteal. The lacteals fuse at the base of the villi to form the submucosal network of lymphatics, which has dense interconnection but lacks valves. The lacteals and the submucosal lymphatics lack smooth muscle and therefore cannot contract spontaneously.

The lymphatics in the smooth-muscle layer form a densely interconnected network which is not directly connected to the mucosal and submucosal lymphatic networks. The network of lymphatics in the muscle also has no functional valves. The mucosal, submucosal, and muscular layer lymphatic networks merge to form large collecting lymphatics near the mesenteric border of the intestine. At this site, intrinsic lymphatic contractions may be observed and the first lymphatic valves can be identified. The lymph drains into lymphatic conduits running through the mesentery. These, in turn, empty into the main mesenteric lymph ducts, which are contractile and possess valves to prevent reflux. They are frequently paired with the mesenteric artery and vein.

MUSCLE LAYER

LYMPHATIC SINUS WITH VALVES

SUBMUCOSA

Figure 6 Lymphatic network in the small intestine.

SUBMUCOSAL LYMPHATICS WITH FEW VALVES

LYMPHATIC SINUS WITH VALVES

SUBMUCOSA

Figure 6 Lymphatic network in the small intestine.

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