The subclavian artery is a major blood vessel of the thorax that provides blood supply to the upper limb, while some of its branches participate in supplying the head and neck.
The subclavian arteries arise asymmetrically but follow similar courses. On the left side the subclavian artery branches off directly from the arch of the aorta, while on the right side it arises from the brachiocephalic trunk, as it goes posteriorly to the sternoclavicular joint.
Further, the subclavian artery passes laterally upwards, between the anterior and middle scalene muscles. When the subclavian artery crosses the lateral border of the first rib, it continues as the axillary artery.
On its course, the subclavian artery gives rise to several side branches:
- Vertebral artery
- Internal thoracic artery
- Thyrocervical trunk
- Costocervical trunk
- Dorsal scapular artery
- Transverse cervical artery
Altogether, the subclavian artery supplies the posterior cerebral circulation, cerebellum, back of the neck, upper limb, and superior anterior chest wall.