The suprarenal glands are bilaterally supplied by three suprarenal arteries and drained by a single suprarenal vein. Variable vascular origins of the fetal suprarenal gland have been documented in different population groups viz. Indian, Polish and Argentinian. However, there is lack of a detailed description regarding the course, relations, number of branches and vertebral levels of the origins of the vasculature of the suprarenal glands in fetuses. This study aimed to identify and document the vascular supply of the suprarenal glands in fetuses in a South African setting. Fifty fetal specimens (26 males; 24 females) with a gestational age ranging between 12 and 20 weeks, were bilaterally micro-dissected (n=100) using a Zeiss Stemi DV4 microscope. Data was recorded and the frequencies of the origin, course, relations, number of branches and vertebral levels of the suprarenal vascular supply were determined. Arterial supply: Origin: (i) The superior suprarenal artery (SSA) bilaterally arose from the inferior phrenic arteries in 98 % of the fetuses; (ii) the middle suprarenal artery (MSA) frequently arose from the renal artery (RA) on the right side (46 %) and the abdominal aorta on the left side (34 %); while (iii) the inferior suprarenal artery (ISA) predominantly arose from the RA in 91 % of the specimens, bilaterally. Course and relations: The suprarenal arteries followed a superior, inferior, lateral, supero-lateral and infero-lateral course to the gland. These arteries were closely related to the crura of the diaphragm, the inferior vena cava, the left inferior phrenic vein and the pancreas. Number of branches: The branches ranged from one to seven for the SSA, one to four for the MSA and one to three for the ISA. Vertebral levels: The SSA predominantly arose from the first lumbar (L1) vertebral body (32 %), the MSA arose from the middle third of the intervertebral disc between the L1 and the second lumbar (L2) vertebrae (19 %) and the ISA arose from the L2 vertebral body (28 %). Venous drainage: In 1 % of the specimens, an additional right suprarenal vein (ARSV) was observed. This ARSV followed a supero- medial course into the inferior vena cava, just below the entrance of the main right suprarenal vein. The arteries supplying the suprarenal gland presented varying origins and number of branches, corroborating with the reviewed literature and standard anatomical textbooks. The findings of this study may aid pediatric surgeons in understanding the vascular morphology (and the variations thereof) of the suprarenal gland, when performing adrenelectomy surgery in neonates.
KEY WORDS: Suprarenal gland; Artery; Vein; Fetus; Variations.