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Overview of the development of the gastrointestinal tract

Ian Sanderson, MD
Section Editors
Kathleen J Motil, MD, PhD
Melvin B Heyman, MD, MPH
Deputy Editor
Alison G Hoppin, MD


The anatomic formation of the esophagus, stomach, intestine, liver, and pancreas are achieved in the fourth fetal week through a series of evaginations, elongations, and dilatations. Anatomic development progresses through cell proliferation, growth, and morphogenesis.


Three distinct regions of the intestine give rise to specific portions of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract:

The foregut is the precursor of the pharynx, esophagus, stomach, liver, gall bladder, pancreas, and the cranial portion of the duodenum (figure 1).

The midgut gives rise to the caudal portion of the duodenum, the jejunum, ileum, the ascending colon, and two-thirds of the transverse colon (figure 2).

The hindgut is the precursor of the distal one-third of the transverse colon, the descending colon, the rectum, and the urogenital sinus (figure 3).

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Literature review current through: Nov 2017. | This topic last updated: Nov 17, 2017.
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