Arteries are muscle-lined tubes in the body that transport blood from the heart to other parts of the body. In the upper extremity, there are two arteries that pass through the axilla, also known as the “armpit.” These arteries are:
- Subclavian Artery: This is the large vessel that begins the blood supply to the upper extremity. It begins near the heart and travels under the clavicle bone toward the shoulder. Eventually it turns into the axillary artery.
- Axillary Artery: This is a continuation of the subclavian artery. This artery travels deep in the arm pit, feeding muscles and bones around the shoulder with its branches. It eventually turns into the brachial artery.
Continuing down the arm, there is one artery in the upper arm:
- Brachial Artery: This artery begins under the pectoralis muscle and travels down the arm. It eventually splits into two arteries (the radial artery and the ulnar artery) at the elbow.
In the forearm, there are two arteries, including:
- Radial Artery: This is one of two major blood vessels that supply blood to the forearm and hand. The radial artery travels across the front of the elbow, deep under muscle until it comes to the wrist. This artery comes close to the skin surface. You can feel the pulse of the radial artery on the thumb side of the wrist. Past the wrist, this artery branches to form a network of blood supply vessels in the hand.
- Ulnar Artery: The ulnar artery is the other major blood vessel that supplies blood to the forearm and hand. It travels across the front of the elbow, deep under muscle along the small finger side of the forearm. It also branches to form a network of blood supply vessels in the hand.
You can view photos and learn more about vessels in the upper extremity by visiting the Anatomy page on www.HandCare.org.