To some degree, its role is complementary to that of the serosa, which also provides a layer of tissue surrounding an organ. In the abdomen, whether an organ is covered in adventitia or serosa depends upon whether it is peritoneal or retroperitoneal:
- intraperitoneal organs are covered in serosa (a layer of mesothelium, the visceral peritoneum)
- retroperitoneal organs are covered in adventitia (loose connective tissue)
In the gastrointestinal tract, the muscularis externa is bounded in most cases by serosa. However, at the oral cavity, thoracic esophagus, ascending colon, descending colon and the rectum, the muscularis externa is instead bounded by adventitia. (The muscularis externa of the duodenum is bounded by both tissue types.) Generally, if it is a part of the digestive tract that is free to move, it is covered by serosa, and if it is relatively rigidly fixed, it is covered by adventitia.