Arteries of the Forelimb - Anatomy & Physiology

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Oxygenated blood leaving the heart flows into the aorta, one of its earliest branches is the subclavian artery which supplies blood to the forelimb, neck and cervicothoracic junction. It moves round the cranial border of the first rib and enters the limb via the axilla; at this point it changes its name to the axillary artery. It is this vessel that supplies the forelimb.

Axillary Artery


The axillary a. crosses the axillary space and continues distally along the medial aspect of the limb. There are a number of branches of the axillary artery. The external thoracic a. and the lateral thoracic a. both have branches to the thoracic wall. The subscapular a. supplies the muscles of the shoulder running dorsally on the caudal border of the scapula between the teres major and subscapularis muscles. The axillary a. changes its name to brachial a. at the point of the teres major tuberosity, running along the medial aspect of the humerus and then along the craniomedial aspect of the elbow and the forearm before changing its name to the median a.. The tricipital mass is supplied by the deep brachial a. whilst the collateral ulnar a. supplies the caudal aspect of the forearm. The superficial brachial a. supplies the cranial aspect of the forearm running superficially next to the cephalic vein and radial nerve.


The median a. runs on the caudomedial aspect with the median nerve deep to the flexor carpi radialis, passes through the carpal canal and forms branches to connect with the interosseous aa. thus forming the arterial arches of the foot. The transverse cubital a. branches off at the point of the elbow whilst the common interosseous a. branches off just distal to the elbow. The cranial interosseous a. runs between the interossoeus space to supply the dorsal muscles of the forearm whilst the caudal interosseous a. runs to the palmar arches of the proximal metacarpus. The ulnar a. supplies the digital and carpal flexors whilst the radial a. supplies the from the lateral aspect of the radius to the lower foreleg. The deep palmer arch supplies the carpal area whilst the superficial palmer arch supplies the area around the metacarpus. There are a number of smaller arteries in the lower forelimb including the dorsal common digital aa., palmar common digital aa. and the palmar metacarpal aa..

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