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Dorsal Scapular Artery
Cardiovascular System

Dorsal Scapular Artery

Arteria dorsalis scapulae

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Quick Facts

Origin: Subclavian artery.

Course: Laterally through the trunks of the brachial plexus to the superior angle of the scapula, where it descends along the medial aspect of the scapula.

Branches: Muscular, cutaneous, and anastomotic branches.

Supplied Structures: Rhomboid muscles, latissimus dorsi muscle, and the ascending part of the trapezius muscle, skin overlying the ascending part of trapezius muscle.

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There are two main origins for the dorsal scapular artery, either from the subclavian artery or the transverse cervical artery.

The dorsal scapular artery arises from the second part of the subclavian artery in approximately 70% of individuals, where it passes through the trunks of the brachial plexus as it courses towards the scapula.

However, in approx. 30% of individuals, the dorsal scapular artery originates from the transverse cervical artery, where it is formed at the superior angle of the scapula deep to the levator scapulae (Tubbs et al., 2016). In this case, the dorsal scapular artery is frequently known as the deep branch of the transverse cervical artery.


Regardless of its origin, the dorsal scapular artery courses in a lateral direction, anterior to the scalene muscles. The relative position of the dorsal scapular artery and the brachial plexus is associated with the origin of the dorsal scapular artery. When it arises directly from the subclavian artery, it typically traverses the trunks of the brachial plexus; however, if it arises via the transverse cervical artery, it crosses the plexus anteriorly (Tubbs, Shoja and Loukas, 2016).

The dorsal scapular artery courses towards the superior scapular angle, deep to the levator scapulae muscle. It then descends along the medial border of the scapula, accompanied by the dorsal scapular nerve. They both sit deep to rhomboid major and minor muscle and travel as far as the inferior angle of the scapula.


The dorsal scapular artery gives off muscular cutaneous branches. Additionally, it forms an anastomosis with the suprascapular, subscapular, and the upper posterior intercostal arteries.

Supplied Structures

The dorsal scapular artery supplies the rhomboid muscles, latissimus dorsi muscle, ascending (or inferior) part of the trapezius muscle, and the scalenus anterior muscle. It gives cutaneous branches to the skin overlying the ascending part of the trapezius muscle.


Tubbs, R. S., Shoja, M. M. and Loukas, M. (2016) Bergman's Comprehensive Encyclopedia of Human Anatomic Variation. Wiley.

Learn more about this topic from other Elsevier products


ScienceDirect image

When the artery is occluded blood is forced through the collateral vessels, drastically increasing fluid shear stress and triggering an inflammatory response which drives vessel remodeling.

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