Arteries to the Shoulder and Upper Limb

The subclavian artery, after giving off branches to the neck, continues into the arm (fig. 15.49). It passes between the clavicle and the first rib and becomes the axillary artery.

The axillary artery supplies branches to structures in the axilla and the chest wall, including the skin of the shoulder, part of the mammary gland, the upper end of the humerus, the shoulder joint, and muscles in the back, shoulder, and chest. As this vessel leaves the axilla, it becomes the brachial artery.

The brachial artery courses along the humerus to the elbow. It gives rise to a deep brachial artery that curves posteriorly around the humerus and supplies the triceps muscle. Shorter branches pass into the muscles on the anterior side of the arm, whereas others descend on each side to the elbow and connect with arteries in the forearm. The resulting arterial network allows blood to reach the forearm even if a portion of the distal brachial artery becomes obstructed.

Within the elbow, the brachial artery divides into an ulnar artery and a radial artery. The ulnar artery leads downward on the ulnar side of the forearm to the wrist. Some of its branches join the anastomosis around the elbow joint, whereas others supply blood to flexor and extensor muscles in the forearm.

The radial artery, a continuation of the brachial artery, travels along the radial side of the forearm to the wrist. As it nears the wrist, it comes close to the surface and provides a convenient vessel for taking the pulse (radial pulse). Branches of the radial artery join the anastomosis of the elbow and supply the lateral muscles of the forearm.

At the wrist, the branches of the ulnar and radial arteries join to form a network of vessels. Arteries arising from this network supply blood to structures in the wrist, hand, and fingers.

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