Subscapular artery

Last revised by Travis Fahrenhorst-Jones on 30 Apr 2022

The subscapular artery is the largest branch of the axillary artery.

The subscapular artery originates from the medial surface of the third part of the axillary artery. It passes along the inferior border of the subscapularis muscle and it divides into two branches 1,2:

  1. Thoracodorsal artery: courses inferiorly along the serratus anterior muscle and posterior to the lateral thoracic artery supplying the intercostal muscles, serratus anterior and latissimus dorsi muscles as well as the skin of the lateral surface of the thorax.
  2. Circumflex scapular artery (scapular circumflex artery or dorsalis scapulae artery but not to be confused with the dorsal scapular artery): divides into three branches to supply the pectoral girdle
  • subscapularis, supraspinatus and infraspinatus muscles
  • latissimus dorsi muscle
  • serratus anterior muscle

The subscapular artery is quite stable with ~85% demonstrating classical anatomy as described above 3, 4. Common variation in anatomy includes:

  • arises from second-part of axillary artery (~15%) 3
  • absent in ~3% - thoracodorsal and circumflex scapular arteries arise separately from the axillary artery 3
  • posterior humeral circumflex artery arising from the subscapular or thoracodorsal arteries 4
  • lateral thoracic artery arising from the subscapular artery 4

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Cases and figures

  • Figure 1: diagram
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  • Figure 2: axillary anatomy (Gray's illustration)
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