The radial artery in the forearm provides oxygenated blood to the hands and fingers. Healthcare providers access the radial artery to perform cardiac catheterizations, angioplasty and stenting. The radial artery can also be part of coronary artery bypass grafting (CABG).
The radial artery is a blood vessel that supplies blood to the forearm (lower part of the arm) and hand. Arteries carry blood out to the body. This blood is oxygenated (carrying oxygen from your lungs to other body parts).
The radial artery is part of a network of blood vessels that circulate blood to the heart and the rest of the body. Healthcare providers use the radial artery to perform heart tests and procedures.
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As part of the circulatory system, the radial artery supplies blood from the heart to the forearm. There are many radial artery branches. They supply oxygenated blood to the:
The radial artery runs on the inside of the forearm from the elbow to the thumb. The artery lies just under the surface of the skin. You may be able to see the blue or purple vein inside your wrist where the artery brings blood to the thumb.
The radial artery is one branch of the brachial artery, a major blood vessel in the upper arm. At the elbow joint, the brachial artery branches into the radial artery and the ulnar artery.
The radial and ulnar arteries run parallel to each other down the forearm into the hand. They supply blood to the forearm, hands and fingers.
The radial artery is a superficial artery, meaning it is nearer the surface. It isn’t prone to plaque buildup that causes narrowed arteries (atherosclerosis) like some major blood vessels.
People who get catheter procedures through the radial artery have a slightly higher risk of blockages (occlusions). Blockages may lead to nerve damage or numbness in the hand and fingers. Less than 3% of the time, a problem with the radial artery leads to carpal tunnel syndrome.
Healthcare providers often perform heart tests and procedures through the radial artery. These transradial access procedures offer an alternative to access through the femoral artery in the groin.
Transradial access may bleed less and cause less discomfort than femoral access. Recovery after a transradial access procedure is often faster, too.
Providers also use the radial artery to:
You should call your healthcare provider if you experience:
A note from Cleveland Clinic
The radial artery sends oxygenated blood to the lower arm and hand. Healthcare providers use the radial artery to perform noninvasive (nonsurgical) heart tests and procedures like heart catheterizations. Providers also use the radial artery to perform heart bypass surgery. If needed, the ulnar artery in the forearm can take over for a damaged or missing radial artery.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 08/23/2021.
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