Ulnar Artery

The ulnar artery is one of the two main arteries in your forearms. It starts just below your elbow and extends along the pinky side of your arm. It carries oxygen-rich blood to your forearms, wrists, hands and fingers. Repetitive wrist movements, such as hammering, may increase your risk of a condition called ulnar artery thrombosis.

Overview

What is the ulnar artery?

The ulnar artery is a blood vessel in your arm. It supplies oxygen-rich blood to your forearms, wrists and hands.

The ulnar artery is one of the two branches of the brachial artery. The other branch is the radial artery. The ulnar artery runs along the outside of your forearm, closest to your pinky. The radial artery runs along the inside of your forearm, closest to your thumb.

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Function

What does the ulnar artery do?

Your ulnar artery is part of your circulatory system. It supplies oxygen-rich blood throughout your forearms and hands, including in your:

  • Fingers.
  • Forearm muscles.
  • Ulnar nerve.
  • Wrist bones and joints.

Anatomy

Where is the ulnar artery located?

The ulnar artery is located in your arm. It starts just below the bend of your elbow and extends through the outer edge of your forearm. At your wrist, it branches out into the superficial palmar arch, the network of arteries that runs through your palm.

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What are the ulnar artery branches?

The ulnar artery has several branches:

  • Common interosseous artery connects the ulnar artery to the forearm.
  • Deep palmar branch and superficial palmar arch connect the ulnar artery to your hands and fingers.
  • Palmar and dorsal carpal branches connect the ulnar artery to your wrist.
  • Ulnar recurrent arteries connect the ulnar artery to the pronator teres muscle, the muscle that helps you twist (pronate) your arm.

Conditions and Disorders

What common conditions and disorders affect the ulnar artery?

The most common condition affecting the ulnar artery is ulnar artery thrombosis. This condition occurs when a sudden injury or repetitive movements cause a blood clot to form in your ulnar artery.

This condition also is called hypothenar hammer syndrome because it’s more common in people who use their hands for repetitive movements, such as swinging a hammer.

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What are the symptoms of ulnar artery disorders?

The most common symptoms of ulnar artery thrombosis include:

When should I call my doctor about ulnar artery symptoms?

Call your healthcare provider if you experience any symptoms that could point to blocked blood flow in your ulnar artery, including:

  • Numbness in your forearms, hands or fingers.
  • Loss of grip strength.
  • Unexplained tingling in your forearms, hands or fingers.

Care

What simple lifestyle changes can protect my ulnar artery?

You can keep your ulnar artery and entire circulatory system healthy by:

  • Achieving and maintaining a healthy body weight for your age, sex and body type.
  • Aiming to keep your total cholesterol under 200 mg/dL.
  • Controlling your blood pressure by keeping it under 140/90 mmHg.
  • Exercising regularly, incorporating both strength training and aerobic exercise.
  • Managing any health conditions, such as diabetes or heart disease, by following your healthcare provider’s treatment plan and taking all medications as prescribed.
  • Quitting smoking.

Additional Common Questions

Does carpal tunnel syndrome affect the ulnar artery?

No. Carpal tunnel syndrome compresses your median nerve, not your ulnar artery. The ulnar artery runs through a passage in your wrist called the Guyon’s canal. It doesn’t pass through the carpal tunnel.

A note from Cleveland Clinic

The ulnar artery supplies oxygen-rich blood to your forearms, wrists, hands and fingers. It starts just below your elbow and extends along the outside of your arm, closest to your pinky. People who have jobs requiring repetitive movements, such as hammering, may develop a condition called ulnar artery thrombosis. This condition may cause numbness or tingling in your forearm, wrist, hand or fingers.

Medically Reviewed

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 06/14/2022.

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