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Umbilical artery: want to learn more about it?

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Umbilical artery

The umbilical artery is a paired vessel that arises from the internal iliac artery. During the prenatal development of the fetus, it is a major part of the fetal circulation.

After birth, the distal part of the artery obliterates and becomes the medial umbilical ligament. The proximal part of the artery still remains functional, providing a blood supply for the superior aspect of the urinary bladder and for ductus deferens in males. It commonly forms anastomoses with the inferior vesical, vaginal and obturator arteries.

This article will discuss the anatomy and function of the umbilical artery.

Key facts about the umbilical artery
Origin Internal iliac artery
Branches Superior vesical arteries, middle vesical arteries, artery for ductus deferens
Supply Urinary bladder, ductus deferens

Origin and course

The umbilical artery is a paired vessel that stems from the anterior division of the internal iliac artery. It runs anteromedially until it reaches the anterior abdominal wall. Then, it courses superiorly towards the umbilical ring, where it terminates.

During the prenatal period, the umbilical artery is the main continuation of the internal iliac artery. The two umbilical arteries run through the umbilical cord, comprising a helix around the umbilical vein. The arteries carry deoxygenated and nutrient-deficient blood from the fetus to the placenta.

After birth, when the umbilical cord is cut, a blood clot forms and occupies the distal portion of the artery. In the following months, the distal part of the umbilical artery obliterates. The obliterated umbilical artery is referred to as the medial umbilical ligament. When this ligament rises a portion of the parietal peritoneum, it is referred to as the medial umbilical fold. It's important to distinguish the medial umbilical ligament from the median umbilical ligament which is a remnant of the urachus (embryonic communication between the allantois and cloaca).

Although the distal part of the artery obliterates after birth, the proximal part remains functional. This functional segment runs anteroinferiorly and usually terminates around the urinary bladder. It generally provides blood supply for the surrounding organs, including the urinary bladder and ductus deferens in men. The umbilical artery commonly forms anastomoses with the inferior vesical, vaginal and obturator arteries.

Branches and supply

On its course, the proximal portion of the umbilical artery gives rise to the superior and middle vesical arteries. Their function is to provide abundant blood supply for the urinary bladder. In some males, the umbilical artery can also provide the artery for the ductus deferens that supplies the ductus deferens and seminal vesicles.

To learn more about the arteries of the sacrum check out our other articles, videos, quizzes and labeled diagrams.

Anatomical variations

  • In 40% of cases, the umbilical artery gives rise to the uterine artery.
  • In 10% of cases, it gives rise to the prostatovesical artery.

Umbilical artery: want to learn more about it?

Our engaging videos, interactive quizzes, in-depth articles and HD atlas are here to get you top results faster.

What do you prefer to learn with?

“I would honestly say that Kenhub cut my study time in half.” – Read more. Kim Bengochea Kim Bengochea, Regis University, Denver

Show references

References:

  • Moore, K. L., Dalley, A. F., & Agur, A. M. R. (2014). Clinically Oriented Anatomy (7th ed.). Philadelphia, PA: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.
  • Netter, F. (2019). Atlas of Human Anatomy (7th ed.). Philadelphia, PA: Saunders.
  • Standring, S. (2016). Gray's Anatomy (41st ed.). Edinburgh: Elsevier Churchill Livingstone.
  • Tubbs, R. S., Shoja, M. M., Loukas, M., & Bergman, R. A. (2016). Bergman’s comprehensive encyclopedia of human anatomic variation. Hoboken: Wiley Blackwell.

Illustrations:

  • Umbilical artery (Arteria umbilicalis) - Paul Kim
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