Brachial Artery

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.


What is the brachial artery?

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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What is the purpose of the brachial artery?

The function of the brachial artery and its branches is to deliver blood to your upper extremities, including your:

  • Biceps brachii muscles, or just biceps.
  • Brachialis muscles (behind your biceps).
  • Elbow joint.
  • Triceps brachii muscles, or just triceps.

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.

How is the brachial artery used for tests and procedures?

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).



Where is the brachial artery located?

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.

How is the brachial artery structured?

The brachial artery contains several branches. From top to bottom, they include:

  • Deep brachial artery: Also called the profunda brachii artery, this is the first and main branch of the brachial artery. It supplies blood to parts of your humerus bone (long bone in your upper arm), deltoid muscle (rounded part of your shoulder) and triceps muscle (back of your upper arm). It runs alongside the radial nerve.
  • Superior ulnar collateral artery: The second branch may come off of the main brachial artery or the deep brachial artery branch. It supplies blood to your triceps and part of your elbow and elbow joint. It runs alongside the ulnar nerve near the elbow.
  • Inferior ulnar collateral artery: The third branch of the brachial artery starts near the bottom of your humerus. It helps supply the biceps and brachialis muscles.

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.


What is the brachial artery made of?

All the arteries in your body contain three layers:

  • Tunica intima: The inner layer keeps your blood flowing smoothly. It regulates blood pressure, prevents blood clots and keeps toxins out of your blood.
  • Media: The middle layer helps vessels expand and contract, keeping your blood flowing in one direction.
  • Adventitia: The outer layer gives structure and support to blood vessels. It contains small vessels that deliver oxygen and nutrients to your cells — and remove waste.

Conditions and Disorders

What conditions and disorders affect the brachial artery?

Health conditions that can affect the brachial artery include:

  • Trauma: The brachial artery is near the surface of your skin. So, traumatic injuries such as arm fractures or lacerations (cuts) can damage it. Trauma can also lead to acute compartment syndrome in your arm. This is severe swelling that prevents muscles from getting blood. This might be the result of arm surgery, internal bleeding in your arm or injuries. Compartment syndrome can lead to Volkmann ischemic contracture. This condition is a claw-like deformity in your lower arm and hand. It happens due to muscle damage from decreased blood flow.
  • Aneurysms: Damaged or weakened arteries can develop bulges called aneurysms. Brachial artery aneurysms are rare, but they can happen. Most brachial aneurysms are the result of trauma. But sometimes they’re due to atherosclerosis (arterial disease), genetic disorders, infective endocarditis or Kawasaki disease (an illness that causes blood vessel inflammation).
  • Arm artery disease: Peripheral artery disease usually affects the lower extremities, but it can occur in your arms too. Blockages in the arteries of your arm are usually from blood clots that formed elsewhere in your body (commonly from the aorta and heart) and then traveled to your arms. Upper extremity artery disease can also be the result of atherosclerosis or dialysis access procedures.


How can I keep my brachial artery healthy?

Reduce your risk of problems with your brachial artery by:

  • Eating a healthy, balanced diet.
  • Exercising regularly.
  • Managing your blood pressure and other chronic health conditions.
  • Not smoking or using tobacco products.
  • Reducing the amount of alcohol you drink.

Additional Common Questions

When should I call my doctor?

Seek immediate medical attention if you experience any of the following symptoms, as they could be signs of a blood clot in your arm:

  • Areas of your arm that are warm to the touch.
  • Discolored arm skin that’s very pale, red or bluish.
  • Muscle cramps in your upper or lower arm.
  • Swelling in one arm.
  • Red-to-blue hands or fingers that may develop painful ulcers.

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.

Medically Reviewed

Last reviewed on 12/07/2021.

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