Brachiocephalic artery

The brachiocephalic artery (or brachiocephalic trunk) is an artery of the mediastinum that supplies blood to the right arm and the head and neck. It was previously known as the innominate artery,[1] meaning unnamed artery.

Brachiocephalic artery.
Schematic of the proximal aorta, frontal view. The brachiocephalic artery is the third branch of the aorta and the first branch from the arch of the aorta. The heart in the lower left is not shown.
Relations of the aorta, trachea, esophagus and other heart structures.png
Course of the ascending aorta (anterior view), as it passes dorsally to the pulmonary trunk but ventrally to the right pulmonary artery.
PrecursorRight horn of aortic sac
SourceAortic arch
BranchesRight common carotid artery
Right Subclavian artery
Thyroid ima artery(occasionally)
VeinBrachiocephalic vein
Latintruncus brachiocephalicus
Anatomical terminology

It is the first branch of the aortic arch.[2] Soon after it emerges, the brachiocephalic artery divides into the right common carotid artery and the right subclavian artery.[3]

There is no brachiocephalic artery for the left side of the body. The left common carotid, and the left subclavian artery, come directly off the aortic arch. However, there are two brachiocephalic veins.[4]


The brachiocephalic artery arises, on a level with the upper border of the second right costal cartilage, from the start of the aortic arch,[2] on a plane anterior to the origin of the left carotid artery. It ascends obliquely upward, backward, and to the right to the level of the upper border of the right sternoclavicular articulation, where it divides into the right common carotid artery and right subclavian arteries. The artery then crosses the trachea in front of it obliquely from the left to the right, roughly at the middle of the trachea or the level of the ninth tracheal cartilage.


Brachiocephalic artery has relation with:[5]

Thymus typically sits atop the brachiocephalic artery, and separates the artery from the posterior surface of the manubrium of sternum.[3]


The thyroid ima artery ascends in front of the trachea to the lower part of the thyroid, which it supplies.


The innominate artery usually gives off no branches, but occasionally a small branch, the thyroid ima artery, arises from it. Other times, it gives off a thymic or bronchial branch.

Thyroid ima artery varies greatly in size, and appears to compensate for deficiency or absence of one of the other thyroid vessels. It occasionally arises from the aorta, the right common carotid, the subclavian or the internal mammary.


Aortic sac is the embryological precursor of proximal portion of the aortic arch. It is chronologically the first portion of the aorta to form, and appears as a dilation superior to the truncus arteriosus. Between the two horns of aortic sac, right horn gives rise to the brachiocephalic artery. Then the right horn fuses with the right-sided third and fourth aortic arches, which give rise to the right common carotid artery and the proximal right subclavian artery respectively.[3] Eventually, brachiocephalic artery is derived from ventral aorta, same as ascending aorta. Left horn forms proximal ascending portion of aorta.[6]


Brachiocephalic artery brings blood from heart to right arm, head, and neck.[7]

Clinical significanceEdit

Innominate artery aneurysms represents 3% of all arterial aneurysms. Since there is the risk of thromboembolic complications and spontaneous rupture, surgical repair is usually recommended on an early period. Innominate artery aneurysms can often present with signs of innominate artery compression syndrome and have a very high risk of rupture.[8] The majority of IA aneurysms are due to atherosclerosis. Other causes include syphilis, tuberculosis, Kawasaki's disease, Takayasu's arteritis, Behçet's disease, connective tissue disease, and angiosarcoma.[8]

Tracheo-innominate artery fistula (TIF) is a surgical emergency with high mortality rates. Reported incidence is 0.1%-1.0% after tracheostomy. TIF is usually fatal once it bleeds. For the successful management of TIF, treatment should be initiated immediately with the special considerations kept in mind.[9]

Several abnormalities of brachiocephalic artery have been reported. A retroesophageal innominate artery is a rare congenital anomaly.[10] Also, aberrant innominate artery crossing anterior to the trachea just below the thyroid isthmus was reported. Anterior neck surgeries such as bronchoscopies and mediastinoscopies are common and safe procedure, since operating around the trachea, no major vessel is encountered in the surgical field. However when this type of abnormality is encountered, even minor trauma can lead to mass bleeding culminating in death.[11] Aberrant innominate artery can cause incomplete vascular ring. It does not completely encircle the trachea and esophagus, but some compress either the trachea or esophagus. Anomalous innominate artery originates later from the transverse arch and then crosses the trachea causing anterior tracheal compression.[12]

Additional imagesEdit

See alsoEdit


  This article incorporates text in the public domain from page 548 of the 20th edition of Gray's Anatomy (1918)

  1. ^ Olivier, Marlyson. "Brachiocephalic trunk | Radiology Reference Article |". Radiopaedia. Retrieved 2022-12-27.
  2. ^ a b Di Tullio MR, Homma S (2016-01-01). "Chapter 33 - Atherosclerotic Disease of the Proximal Aorta". In Grotta JC, Albers GW, Broderick JP, Kasner SE (eds.). Stroke (Sixth ed.). London: Elsevier. pp. 576–590. doi:10.1016/b978-0-323-29544-4.00033-5. ISBN 978-0-323-29544-4.
  3. ^ a b c Dugas BA, Samra NS (2022). "Anatomy, Thorax, Brachocephalic (Right Innominate) Arteries". StatPearls. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing. PMID 32491610. Retrieved 2022-06-12.
  4. ^ Woodhouse P, Waheed A, Bordoni B (2022). "Anatomy, Thorax, Brachiocephalic (Innominate) Veins". StatPearls. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing. PMID 31335059. Retrieved 2022-06-12.
  5. ^ "Innominate Artery". Retrieved 2022-06-14.
  6. ^ Etesami M, Ashwath R, Kanne J, Gilkeson RC, Rajiah P (August 2014). "Computed tomography in the evaluation of vascular rings and slings". Insights into Imaging. 5 (4): 507–521. doi:10.1007/s13244-014-0343-3. PMC 4141344. PMID 25008430.
  7. ^ "Innominate Artery Disease". Retrieved 2022-06-14.
  8. ^ a b Soylu E, Harling L, Ashrafian H, Anagnostakou V, Tassopoulos D, Charitos C, et al. (June 2013). "Surgical treatment of innominate artery and aortic aneurysm: a case report and review of the literature". Journal of Cardiothoracic Surgery. 8 (1): 141. doi:10.1186/1749-8090-8-141. PMC 3680210. PMID 23725538.
  9. ^ Komatsu T, Sowa T, Fujinaga T, Handa N, Watanabe H (2013). "Tracheo-innominate artery fistula: two case reports and a clinical review". Annals of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery. 19 (1): 60–62. doi:10.5761/ PMID 22785449.
  10. ^ Grollman, Julius H.; Bedynek, Julius L.; Henderson, Haller S.; Hall, Robert J. (1968-04-01). "Right Aortic Arch with an Aberrant Retroesophageal Innominate Artery: Angiographic Diagnosis". Radiology. 90 (4): 782–783. doi:10.1148/90.4.782. ISSN 0033-8419. PMID 4867899.
  11. ^ Dave, Varun Jitendra; Upadhya, Ila Balakrishna (2016-01-21). "Aberrant innominate artery may complicate a potentially safe surgery". BMJ Case Reports. 2016: bcr2015213910. doi:10.1136/bcr-2015-213910. ISSN 1757-790X. PMC 4735186. PMID 26795742.
  12. ^ Sahni D, Franklin WH (2022). "Vascular Ring Double Aortic Arch". StatPearls. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing. PMID 32644364. Retrieved 2022-06-12.

External linksEdit