Superior epigastric arteryThe superior epigastric artery is a terminal branch of the internal thoracic artery that contributes to the blood supply of the anterior abdominal wall.
The artery spans from the lower margin of the thoracic cage to the level of the umbilicus.
|Origin||Internal thoracic artery|
|Branches||Muscular branches to rectus abdominis and diaphragm, cutaneous branch to the skin of anterior abdominal wall|
|Supply||Rectus abdominis muscle and its overlying skin, anterior muscular slips of diaphragm|
This article will discuss the anatomy and function of the superior epigastric artery.
The superior epigastric artery is a terminal continuation of the internal thoracic artery. It originates at the level of the sixth costal cartilage and takes an inferior course, passing between the costal and xiphoid muscular slips of the diaphragm.
The artery then reaches the anterior surface of the abdomen, coursing over the transversus thoracis and transversus abdominis muscles. It enters the rectus sheath together with the inferior epigastric veins and descends towards the umbilicus being deep to the rectus abdominis muscle. The artery terminates by anastomosing with the inferior epigastric artery just above the umbilical plane.
Branches and supply
The superior epigastric artery gives off several collateral branches that supply the adjacent structures of the anterior abdominal wall;
- Small muscular branches that supply the anterior part of the diaphragm
- Branches to the rectus abdominis muscle and the overlying skin
- The right artery gives off a small branch that anastomoses with the branches of the hepatic artery near the falciform ligament of the liver
- Each superior epigastric artery gives off a small branch that passes anterior to the xiphoid process of sternum and anastomoses with the contralateral counterpart. This anastomosis can be damaged and cause bleeding during surgical procedures.
Learn everything about the blood vessels of the abdominal wall with our article, quizzes, and labeled diagrams.