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Radial artery

Recommended video: Main arteries of the upper limb [13:31]
Major arteries of the shoulder, arm, forearm and hand.

The radial artery is a continuation of the brachial artery and is one of the major blood supplying vessels to the structures of the forearm. The brachial artery terminates at the cubital fossa where it bifurcates into the ulnar artery and a smaller radial artery.

It runs on the lateral aspect of the forearm before it reaches the wrist and branches out to supply the hand. The radial artery is also important clinically due to its location at the wrist, as it can be felt as a pulse and can be used to determine the heart rate.

Key facts about the radial artery
Source Brachial artery
Branches Muscular branches, radial recurrent artery, palmar carpal branch, dorsal carpal branch, superficial palmar branch, deep palmar branch, first dorsal metacarpal artery, princeps pollicis artery, radialis indicis artery
Clinical relations Radial arterial pulse, Allen’s test
  1. Course
    1. Origin
    2. Forearm
    3. Wrist and hand
  2. Branches
    1. Muscular branches
    2. Radial recurrent artery 
    3. Palmar carpal branch
    4. Dorsal carpal branch
    5. Superficial palmar branch
    6. Deep palmar branch
    7. First dorsal metacarpal artery
    8. Princeps pollicis and radialis indicis arteries
  3. Clinical notes
    1. Radial arterial pulse
    2. Allen’s test
  4. Sources
+ Show all



The radial artery begins at the inferior portion of the cubital fossa after it has bifurcated from the brachial artery (a continuation of the axillary artery), but it appears almost as a direct continuation of the brachial artery.


In the forearm, the radial artery crosses the distal tendon of the biceps brachii muscle and travels along the medial aspect of the neck of the radius to the styloid process of the anterior surface of the radius. Proximally, the artery lies deep to the brachioradialis muscle while distally it is only covered by fascia and skin. It lies between the tendon of the brachioradialis and the flexor carpi radialis muscles. 

Wrist and hand

At the wrist, the radial artery goes around it laterally and then travels across the floor of the anatomical snuffbox to the palm of the hand.

Radial artery traversing the anatomical snuffbox. Radial artery is the most lateral arterial vessel you will see in the wrist.


The radial artery has many branches occurring at the forearm, wrist and hand. 

Muscular branches

These small branches supply muscles on the radial aspect of the forearm, in particular the extensor muscles of the posterior compartment of the forearm. However, those muscular branches only supply certain forearm extensors. Some specific muscles of the posterior compartment, or only parts of respective muscles, are supplied by the anterior and posterior interosseous arteries, branches of the common interosseous artery. The latter originates from the ulnar artery.

Radial recurrent artery 

This branch is just distal to where the radial artery has bifurcated from the brachial artery. It anastamoses with the radial collateral artery (derived from the deep brachial artery) and is an important blood supply to the elbow joint.

Palmar carpal branch

This branch arises near the distal border of the pronator quadratus muscle and runs along the anterior surface of the carpal bones. It anastamoses with the palmar carpal branch of the ulnar artery and the anterior interosseous arteries. This forms the palmar carpal arch to supply the carpal bones and their joints.

Dorsal carpal branch

The dorsal carpal branch branches off from the radial artery at the proximal part of the anatomical snuffbox and runs medially across the wrist. It anastamoses with the dorsal carpal branch of the ulnar artery and posterior interosseous arteries to form the dorsal carpal arch.

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Superficial palmar branch

This branch completes the lateral part of the superficial palmar arch, which is predominately supplied by the direct continuation of the ulnar artery. The superficial palmar arch lies between the long flexor tendons of the digits and the palmar aponeurosis.

Deep palmar branch

This branch is a direct continuation of the radial artery and forms the deep palmar arch of the hand. The medial aspect of the deep palmar arch is completed by the deep palmar branch of the ulnar artery. The deep palmar arch runs through the palm between the bases of the metacarpal bones and the long flexor tendons of the digits.

First dorsal metacarpal artery

This branch artery splits into two and supplies the adjacent sides of the thumb and index finger.

Princeps pollicis and radialis indicis arteries

When the radial artery reaches the level of the webspace between the thumb and index finger it splits into two branches on the dorsal aspect of the hand: the princeps pollicis artery and radialis indicis artery. The princeps pollicis branch divides into two and is the main blood supply to the thumb of the hand. The radialis indicis branch runs along to the distal end of the index, supplying the lateral aspect of the index finger.

For more details about the arteries of the upper limb, including the radial artery, take a look below:

Radial artery: want to learn more about it?

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