Accurate definition of the aorta and pulmonary artery from three-dimensional (3D) multi-detector CT (MDCT) images is important for pulmonary applications. This work presents robust methods for defining the aorta and pulmonary artery in the central chest. The methods work on both contrast enhanced and no-contrast 3D MDCT image data. The automatic methods use a common approach employing model fitting and selection and adaptive refinement. During the occasional event that more precise vascular extraction is desired or the method fails, we also have an alternate semi-automatic fail-safe method. The semi-automatic method extracts the vasculature by extending the medial axes into a user-guided direction. A ground-truth study over a series of 40 human 3D MDCT images demonstrates the efficacy, accuracy, robustness, and efficiency of the methods.