Persistent median artery: cadaveric study and review of the literature

Clin Anat. 2011 Jul;24(5):627-33. doi: 10.1002/ca.21127. Epub 2011 Jan 12.


The persistent median artery (PMA) may compress the median nerve (MN) and may be a significant supply of blood to the hand. Two cases of unilateral PMA (4%) were detected during the dissection of 50 upper limbs. The first case was a 75-year-old, right-handed male who suffered from chronic pain in both upper limbs, especially the left side. A dissection of his left upper limb revealed a PMA piercing both the MN and the medial branch of the anterior interosseous nerve. This artery coursed distally, deep to the transverse carpal ligament (TCL), forming a median-ulnar pattern for the superficial palmar arch (SPA). The PMA was superficial to two nerves at the distal edge of the TCL; the extraligamentous recurrent thenar (RT) branch of the MN and the third common digital nerve (TCDN). The second case was from the left side of an 80-year-old female found to have a high origin of the radial artery with trifurcation of the latter into PMA, common interosseous, and ulnar arteries. The PMA passed deep to the TCL forming a radial-median-ulnar pattern of SPA. Both the transligamentous RT branch of the MN and the TCDN passed deep to the PMA inside the carpal tunnel, before the abnormal crossing of the latter nerve ventral to the SPA on its way to the digits. The relationships of the PMA to various MN branches may have important implications regarding the diagnosis and treatment of MN compressive neuropathies.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Cadaver
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome / pathology*
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome / physiopathology
  • Dissection
  • Female
  • Genetic Variation
  • Hand / anatomy & histology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Median Nerve / blood supply*
  • Pain / pathology
  • Pain / physiopathology
  • Phenotype
  • Radial Artery / pathology*
  • Ulnar Artery / pathology*