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Ulnar Artery
Cardiovascular System

Ulnar Artery

Arteria ulnaris

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Quick Facts

Origin: Brachial artery.

Course: Distally, through the forearm and to the hand.

Branches: Ulnar recurrent, common interosseous, and nutrient arteries, palmar and dorsal carpal branches; deep palmar branches, superficial palmar arch.

Supplied Structures: Medial aspect of the forearm and primary supply to the hand.

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Origin

The ulnar and the radial arteries originate from the brachial artery at the level of the neck of the radius, medial to the tendon of the biceps brachii muscle. The ulnar artery is the smallest of the two terminal branches.

Course

Near its origin, the ulnar artery lies on the distal insertion of the brachialis muscle. It courses distally and medially, between the flexor digitorum superficialis and profundus muscles. At the distal one third of the forearm, it becomes more superficial and accompanies the ulnar nerve. The pulse point of the ulnar artery can be palpated at the wrist, lateral to the flexor carpi ulnaris muscle.

The ulnar artery and nerve enter the hand via Guyon’s canal. This canal sits over the flexor retinaculum on the lateral aspect of the pisiform and medial to the hook of hamate. It then gives off branches that contribute to the formation of the palmar arches (Standring, 2016; Tubbs, Shoja and Loukas, 2016).

Branches

In the forearm, the ulnar artery gives off the anterior and posterior ulnar recurrent arteries, common interosseous artery and muscular branches.

In the hand, the ulnar artery gives off palmar and dorsal carpal branches which contribute to the carpal arches, as well as branches that contribute to the superficial and deep palmar arches. A dorsal cutaneous branch arises proximal to the pisiform and travels with the corresponding nerve, the dorsal cutaneous branch of the ulnar nerve. This vessel emerges medially between the flexor carpi ulnaris and the extensor carpi ulnaris muscles.

Supplied Structures

The ulnar artery contributes to the supply of the elbow joint, interosseous membrane, radius and ulna. It gives muscular branches to supply muscles of the medial aspect of the forearm, such as pronator teres, flexor digitorum superficialis, flexor carpi ulnaris, and flexor digitorum profundus muscles. It also gives cutaneous supply to the medial aspect of the forearm, medial aspect of the wrist, and to the region surrounding the hypothenar eminence.

References

Standring, S. (2016) Gray's Anatomy: The Anatomical Basis of Clinical Practice. Gray's Anatomy Series 41st edn.: Elsevier Limited.

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

Ulnar Artery

ScienceDirect image

The ulnar artery also commences from 1 cm below the center of the antecubital fossa to a point on the second line that is at the junction between the proximal and middle thirds.

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