The brachial artery is the main vessel supplying blood to the muscles in your upper arm and elbow joint. It’s often used to measure your blood pressure. The brachial artery is near the surface of your skin, so it’s susceptible to damage from traumatic injuries like arm fractures.
The brachial artery is the major blood vessel supplying blood to your upper arm, elbow, forearm and hand. It starts in your upper arm, just below your shoulder, and runs down through the crease in front of your elbow. It separates into several branches along its route.
If you’ve ever had your blood pressure taken, your healthcare provider puts a cuff around your upper arm. That cuff uses your brachial artery to measure the pressure in your arteries. Sometimes a healthcare provider presses on this artery to take your brachial pulse.
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The function of the brachial artery and its branches is to deliver blood to your upper extremities, including your:
The bones, soft tissues and nerves in your arm need the oxygen and nutrients in your blood to function and repair themselves. The brachial artery, like all other arteries in your body, carries oxygen-rich blood away from your heart.
The brachial artery is an important access point for interventional radiology procedures. Your healthcare provider may insert a catheter (thin-flexible) tube into your brachial artery. Using imaging guidance, they thread it up to blood vessels near your heart. This minimally invasive technique allows your provider to address problems such as blood clots, aneurysms or narrowed arteries without major open-heart surgery.
Your provider may also use a test called an ankle-brachial index (ABI). This test compares the blood pressure from your brachial artery to an artery in your ankle. If your legs aren’t getting enough blood flow, it could be a sign of peripheral artery disease (PAD).
The brachial artery runs along the front part of your bicep. It’s a continuation of the axillary artery in your armpit and shoulder. It ends at the cubital fossa (the indentation between your upper and lower arm, at the front of your elbow). From there it divides into the ulnar and radial arteries in your forearm. The brachial artery runs parallel to the median nerve, which is the main nerve for your forearm.
The brachial artery contains several branches. From top to bottom, they include:
The terminal, or ending, branches of the brachial artery are the ulnar and radial arteries. They go on to supply the forearm, wrist, hand and fingers with oxygenated blood.
All the arteries in your body contain three layers:
Health conditions that can affect the brachial artery include:
Seek immediate medical attention if you experience any of the following symptoms, as they could be signs of a blood clot in your arm:
A note from Cleveland Clinic
The brachial artery is the major blood vessel supplying blood to your arms. It starts just below your shoulder and runs down through your elbow, stopping where your forearm begins. Traumatic injuries are the most common cause of brachial artery damage since the blood vessel is close to the surface of the skin. Vascular disorders such as an aneurysm, blood clot or peripheral artery disease (PAD) can also affect this artery in your arm, but these are fairly rare.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 12/07/2021.
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