German Contact How to study Login Register

Register now and grab your free ultimate anatomy study guide!

Sidebar ebook trimmed

Subclavian Artery - Regional Approach and Mnemonic

The subclavian arteries are a pair of large arteries in the thorax that supply blood to the thorax itself, head, neck, shoulder and arms.

Course of the Subclavian Artery

On the left side of the body the subclavian comes directly from the aortic arch whereas on the right side it arises from the brachiocephalic trunk. Both course above the cervical pleura towards the anterior scalene muscle and through the posterior scalene gap (between the anterior and medial scalene muscles). It enters the axilla between the first rib and the clavicle and becomes the axillary artery.

Subclavian artery - ventral view

Subclavian artery - ventral view

Subclavian Artery Branches

The Thoracic Region

During its course it gives off numerous branches. In the thoracic region, the following branches arise medial to the scalenus anterior muscle:

Vertebral Artery

The first artery is the vertebral artery which ascends until it reaches the vertebral column at the transverse foramen of the sixth or seventh cervical vertebra.

Vertebral artery

Vertebral artery

Internal Thoracic Artery

Second is the internal thoracic artery which runs in the opposite direction to the vertebral artery behind the sternum and costal cage. It branches off into three smaller arteries:

  • The superior epigastric artery arises and runs below the costal margin, entering the rectus sheath.
  • The pericardiophrenic artery accompanies the phrenic artery at the level of the fourth cervical vertebra and helps supply the pericardium.
  • The musculophrenic artery supplies the upper musculature of the diaphragm.

Internal thoracic artery - ventral view

Internal thoracic artery - ventral view

Thyrocervical Trunk

The third artery is the thyrocervical trunk which gives off four branches as it ascends:

Inferior thyroid artery - dorsal view

Inferior thyroid artery - dorsal view

  • The ascending cervical artery is next and ascends along the phrenic nerve at the level of the fourth cervical vertebra.
  • The transverse cervical artery divides into a superficial and deep branch.

Transverse cervical artery - ventral view

Transverse cervical artery - ventral view

  • The superficial branch runs superficially in the lateral cervical region and then under the trapezius muscle (together with the accessory nerve). The deep branch branches off into two smaller arteries, one of which follows the dorsal scapular nerve along the medial border of the scapula. The suprascapular artery courses above the scapula in front of the anterior scalene muscle and behind the clavicle. It anastomoses with the scapular circumflex and thoracoacromial arteries (via the acromial branches).

Suprascapular artery - lateral-right view

Suprascapular artery - lateral-right view

The Muscular Region

The costocervical trunk arises behind the anterior scalene muscle and divides into two main branches:

  • The supreme intercostal artery is the highest of all intercostal arteries and supplies the upper two intercostal spaces, the deep neck and back muscles, the skin of the back and the vertebral canal.

Intercostal artery supreme

Intercostal artery supreme

  • As the trunk descends it gives rise to the deep cervical artery between the first rib and the seventh cervical vertebra which supplies the deep neck musculature.

The Cervical Region

Very often the deep branch of the transverse cervical artery arises directly from the subclavian artery lateral to the anterior scalene muscle. It is then referred to as the dorsal scapular artery. In this case it passes through the brachial plexus, usually through the upper and superior trunk.

Dorsal scapular artery - lateral-right view

Dorsal scapular artery - lateral-right view

Subclavian Artery Branches: Mnemonic

One smart and funny way to remember the correct order and names of the most important branches of the subclavian artery:

'Very Tired Individuals Sip Strong Coffee Served Daily'

  • Vertebral artery
  • Thyrocervical trunk
  1. Inferior thyroid artery
  2. Superior cervical artery
  3. Suprascapular artery
  • Costocervical trunk
  1. Supreme intercostal artery
  2. Deep cervical artery

Summary

The branches of the subclavian artery are the following ('Very Tired Individuals Sip Strong Coffee Served Daily'):

  • Vertebral artery
  • Thyrocervical trunk
  1. Inferior thyroid artery
  2. Superior cervical artery
  3. Suprascapular artery
  • Costocervical trunk
  1. Supreme intercostal artery
  2. Deep cervical artery
Get me the rest of this article for free
Create your account and you'll be able to see the rest of this article, plus videos and a quiz to help you memorize the information, all for free. You'll also get access to articles, videos, and quizzes about dozens of other anatomy systems.
Create your free account ➞
Show references

References:

  • Frank H. Netter: Atlas der Anatomie, 5th Edition, Saunders (2011), table  231
  • Anne M. Gilroy et al.: Atlas of Anatomy, 2nd edition, Thieme (2012), p. 317
  • Friedrich Anderhuber, Franz Pera, Johannes Streicher: Waldeyer Anatomie des Menschen, 19th edition, De Gruyter (2012), p.493-495
  • W. Chaijaroonkhanarak et al.: Origin of the dorsal scapular artery and its relation to the brachial plexus in Thais. Anat Sci Int. 2013 Aug 30

Author:

  • Dr. Alexandra Sieroslawska

Illustrators:

  • Subclavian artery - ventral view - Begoña Rodriguez
  • Vertebral artery - Paul Kim
  • Internal thoracic artery - ventral view - Yousun Koh
  • Inferior thyroid artery - dorsal view - Yousun Koh
  • Transverse cervical artery - ventral view - Yousun Koh
  • Suprascapular artery - lateral-right view - Paul Kim
  • Intercostal artery supreme - Paul Kim
  • Dorsal scapular artery - lateral-right view - Paul Kim
© Unless stated otherwise, all content, including illustrations are exclusive property of Kenhub GmbH, and are protected by German and international copyright laws. All rights reserved.

Related Atlas Images

Neurovasculature of the upper arm and the shoulder

Main arteries of the upper extremity

Main arteries of the head and neck

Continue your learning

Article (You are here)
Other articles
Well done!

Register now and grab your free ultimate anatomy study guide!

Sidebar ebook trimmed
Create your free account.
Start learning anatomy in less than 60 seconds.