Brachial Artery

Brachial Artery

The brachial artery is the major blood vessel present in the upper arm. This is the artery that is used to measure the blood pressure.
Bodytomy Staff
The brachial artery supplies oxygenated blood to the arm. Its blood pressure is most commonly measured due to its superficial location. This, however, makes it prone to injuries. Injury to this artery can be a matter of concern, especially when a person has a fracture.

This artery is a branch of the large axillary artery of the circulatory system that supplies blood to the upper limbs and the thorax. It extends from the margin of the Teres major muscle (a muscle of the upper limb) to the cubital fossa of the elbow, from where it bifurcates to form the radius and ulnar arteries. The following are its major branches:
  • Deep brachial artery or Profunda brachii artery
  • Superior ulnar collateral artery
  • Inferior ulnar collateral artery
  • Radial artery
  • Ulnar artery
The function of all these arteries in the body is to supply oxygenated blood from the heart to various parts of the body.

Brachial Artery Injury
As aforementioned, the superficial location of this artery makes it prone to injuries. These injuries most commonly occur due to humerus bone fractures, which are caused due to penetrating or blunt trauma. The risk zone for this artery is the proximal part which is next to the shaft of the humerus, and also near the elbow. Ischemia (lack of oxygen to tissues leading to death of cells) occurs in case of injuries, which may lead to amputation. There have been cases where complete motor function was not regained after an injury to this artery.

Brachial Artery Thrombosis
Thrombosis is a blood clot that is formed within a blood vessel. This generally occurs when the blood vessel is injured, leading to obstruction of blood flow. Thrombosis of the brachial artery has been observed after cardiac catheterization. The reason for this complication after catheterization can be contributed to 'redo' catheterization, prolonged catheterization, atherosclerosis, or no use of heparin. Certain studies have also reported that acute thrombosis may occur in severe cases of diabetes mellitus. In these cases the first mode of treatment given is thrombectomy.

In case of obstruction of the artery due to a blood clot or atherosclerosis, you may observe the following symptoms;
  • Sensitivity to cold
  • Fingers turning pale or blue
  • Lack of pulse in wrist
  • Muscle weakness
If proper care is not taken, gangrene may set in the limb, which may leave amputation as the only solution. The artery may be injured due to active bleeding or pulsatile hematoma. Certain studies have also stated that smokers, Caucasians, diabetics, and individuals with hypercholesterolemia are more prone to obstruction in this artery.

The damage is usually determined by physical examination, that is checking for pulse, Doppler ultrasonography, or arteriography. A decreased Doppler systolic pressure indicates an arterial injury.

Arterial reconstruction is the treatment given to individuals suffering from brachial artery injury. In certain cases, such as thrombosis or blocked artery, blood thinners are used to dissolve the clot or a surgical procedure known as thrombectomy is carried out.

The treatment depends on the kind of injury inflicted. If the nerves along with the artery are injured, then the treatment may vary and so will the complications.