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The para-aortic lymph node is a part of the many groups of lymph tissue situated near the aorta. It is present just in front of various lumbar vertebrae. The para-aortic lymph nodes are also called periaortic lymphnode.

The para-aortic lymph nodes are important components of the lymphatic system. They help in draining the foreign particles neutralized by the immune system and the dead cells from the body. They especially play a vital role in process the lymph fluid from the lower section of the digestive system and the varied pelvic organs.

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The para-aortic lymph nodes can be categorized as per their location. The preaortic group is present in front of the aorta. Here, each node transfers the lymph from parts of the gastrointestinal tract till mid-rectum. This group can be further classified into the celiac, superior mesenteric, and inferior mesenteric lymph nodes, as per their arrangement around the respective arteries. It may be noted that the celiac, superior mesenteric, and inferior mesenteric arteries are main suppliers of blood to the digestive system.

The cluster of lymph nodes occurring next to the third and fourth lumbar vertebral structures, at the back of the aorta, is known as the postaortic or retroaortic group. These lymph glands drain from the right and left lateral aortic organs. This group of nodes are collectively referred to as the lateral group.It may be noted that the left aortic nodes are situated in a chain-like form to the left of abdominal aorta; while the right aortic glands are arranged in front of the inferior vena cava, near the region where the renal vein ends. The right and left aortic glands drain the testes in males, while the ovaries, fallopian tubes, and uterus are drained in females. Additionally, the nodes also drain the adrenals, common iliac organs, kidneys, and lateral abdominal muscles.

All abnormalities or infections that affect section of the gastrointestinal tract occurring in the abdomen, as well as the pelvic glands, eventually drain out into the para-aortic lymph nodes. This is the reason why the lymph nodes swell up when pathology is present. In case a doctor suspects that the swollen para-aortic lymph nodes has been caused by cancer, or when an oncologist wants to verify whether the cancer has metastasized to other parts of the abdomen and pelvis, then they will perform a biopsy of any one of the para-aortic lymph nodes.

Surgical treatment of cancer also involves removal or dissection of any of the para-aortic lymph nodes. The dissection is generally performed on the lateral cluster, which comprises of around 20 nodes on either side. The surgeon will usually begin dissection of the area where the aorta branches off or splits. Then he/she will remove the groups of lymph nodes up to the superior mesenteric artery or the renal veins. It may be noted that the lymph nodes are located quite close to the aorta, which is the biggest blood vessel present in the body. Hence, extreme care is taken during para-aortic lymph node dissection and biopsy.

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