Superior epigastric artery

Last revised by Craig Hacking on 7 Sep 2020

The superior epigastric artery is one of two terminal branches of the internal thoracic artery with the other being the musculophrenic artery

Gross anatomy

Origin and course

The superior epigastric artery originates at the level of the sixth or seventh costal cartilage. It descends to the anterior abdominal wall, crossing the diaphragm in the interval between the sternal and the costal parts of the muscle. Here it lies anterior to the transverse abdominis muscle and perforates the rectus abdominis muscle.

The superior epigastric artery anastomoses with the inferior epigastric artery, which is a branch of the external iliac artery, providing an important alternate blood supply if the aorta becomes occluded (see: coarctation of the aorta). 


Branches of the superior epigastric artery perforate the rectus sheath and supply the skin of the abdomen. 


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Cases and figures

  • Figure 1: anterior thorax and abdominal wall arterial supply (Gray's illustration)
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