The extraosseous and intraosseous arterial anatomy of the adult elbow

K Yamaguchi, F A Sweet, R Bindra, B F Morrey, R H Gelberman
Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery. American Volume 1997, 79 (11): 1653-62

UNLABELLED: We investigated the extraosseous and intraosseous arterial anatomy of the human adult elbow. Twenty-two fresh adult cadaveric upper extremities were studied with a technique of combined India-ink and latex injection followed by chemical débridement. The intraosseous vascularity of twelve extremities was then evaluated with a rapid Spalteholz clearing technique. Our findings demonstrated consistent patterns of extraosseous and intraosseous vascular anatomy, which were organized into three vascular arcades: medial, lateral, and posterior. The medial arcade was formed by the superior and inferior ulnar collateral arteries and the posterior ulnar recurrent artery. The lateral arcade was formed by the radial and middle collateral, radial recurrent, and interosseous recurrent arteries. The posterior arcade was formed by the medial and lateral arcades and the middle collateral artery. The intraosseous circulation of the elbow, which was segmental in organization, appeared to be dependent on the local blood supply. The capitellum and the lateral aspect of the trochlea were supplied by posterior perforating vessels arising from the radial recurrent, radial collateral, and interosseous recurrent arteries. The medial aspect of the trochlea was supplied by a circumferential vascular ring originating from the inferior ulnar collateral artery. Watershed areas were apparent between the blood supplies to the medial and lateral aspects of the distal end of the humerus. The olecranon was richly supplied by vessels coursing along its medial aspect from the posterior ulnar recurrent artery and along its lateral aspect from the interosseous recurrent artery. The radial head had a dual extraosseous blood supply from a single branch of the radial recurrent artery, which supplied the head directly, and from additional vessels from both the radial and the interosseous recurrent artery, which penetrated the capsular insertion at the neck of the radius.

CLINICAL RELEVANCE: Our findings demonstrate that arterial contributions to the intraosseous circulation of the elbow are more specific than previously appreciated. The intraosseous circulation of the elbow is derived mainly from perforating vessels that arise from neighboring extraosseous arteries. These perforating arteries may be damaged by trauma or by extensile dissection during reconstruction of the elbow. An understanding of the extraosseous and intraosseous circulation of the elbow may help to avoid iatrogenic injury to the intraosseous circulation.

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