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Learning About the Axillary Artery

written by: R. Elizabeth C. Kitchen•edited by: Lamar Stonecypher•updated: 11/27/2009

This article will focus on providing all of the important information on the axillary artery.

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    Location

    The axillary artery is a large blood vessel. It begins at the first rib's lateral margin and passes the teres major's lower margin. At its origin it is referred to as the subclavian artery and at its lower margin it is referred to as the brachial artery. This artery consists of several smaller branches. These include the superior thoracic artery, the lateral thoracic artery, the thoraco-acromial artery, the anterior humeral circumflex artery, the subscapular artery, and the posterior humeral circumflex artery.

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    Function

    This artery transports oxygenated blood to the axilla, thorax, and the upper limbs.

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    Common Disorders Associated with this Artery

    There are several disorders that can affect the axillary artery. An aneurysm affecting this artery is very dangerous, but it is rare. If it occurs, the upper extremities may experience neurologic and vascular compromise. An axillary artery aneurysm occurs when a section of this artery bulges and is weakened. Patients may not experience symptoms initially, but as the aneurysm grows they may experience tenderness at the area of the aneurysm, a pulsating feeling near the area of the aneurysm, or pain near the area of the aneurysm. Treating one of these aneurysms most often involves vascular grafting and surgical excision, which is often effective.

    Peripheral vascular disease is a condition in which plaque builds up in the arteries. It can lead to severe complications, such as hair loss, gangrene, rest pain, ischemic ulcers, and cyanosis. Patients may experience a variety of symptoms such as aching, pain, cramping, tired limbs, and pain that is made worse by moving the limbs. Patients with a mild form of this disease may not experience any symptoms until the disease progresses and the flow of blood is not as normal. The treatment for this artery disorder must be aggressive to prevent the more serious complications. Patients experiencing claudication may benefit from medications such as cilostazol or pentoxifylline. Other treatments include percutaneous intervention, risk factor modification, antiplatelet medications, and exercise. For the most severe cases, surgery may be the only effective treatment method.

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    Resources

    Norman, W. (1999). Axillary Artery. Retrieved on November 20, 2009 from Website: http://home.comcast.net/~wnor/lesson3axillaryart&vein.htm

    Texas Heart Institute. (2004). Surgical Treatment of Axillary Artery Aneurysm. Retrieved on November 20, 2009 from Website: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1163467/