Anatomy of the common hepatic artery

The common hepatic artery and its branches supply oxygenated blood to multiple abdominal organs, including the liver, gallbladder, pancreas, and stomach.

This article will discuss the anatomy and function of the common hepatic artery and describe its clinical significance.

anatomy

structure and location

The common hepatic artery is located in the abdomen, near the lower part of the T12 vertebra. It is one of three branches that emerge from the celiac trunk. The celiac trunk is the main artery and the first branch of the abdominal aorta. Other branches of the celiac trunk include the splenic artery and the left gastric artery.

When it reaches the duodenum (the first part of the small intestine), the common hepatic artery goes up toward the lesser omentum, which consists of folds of tissue that keep abdominal organs attached. The lesser omentum is connected to the stomach and liver.

In the liver, the arteries branch into the gastroduodenal artery and the right gastric artery, both of which are terminal branches, meaning they carry blood supply to the tissues at the ends. The continuation of the common hepatic artery is the proper hepatic artery.

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The main branches of the common hepatic artery are:

  • Hepatic Artery: This continuation of the common hepatic artery continues to supply the gallbladder and liver. The gallbladder is located below the liver. It stores and concentrates bile, which aids in digestion. The functions of the liver include removing waste products, producing cholesterol and regulating amino acid levels in the blood.
  • Gastroduodenal artery: This artery branches into the right gastroepiploic artery and the superior pancreaticoduodenal artery, which supply the pancreas, stomach, and superior duodenal artery.
  • Right gastric artery: This artery branches and supplies the stomach, especially the lesser curvature of the organ.

More about arteries

Arteries are tubular blood vessels that carry oxygen-rich blood from the heart to tissues and organs throughout the body.

Collagen fibers (connective tissue made of proteins) make up the outer layer of arteries. The middle layer, composed of smooth muscle, is responsible for the pumping action that transports blood. The endothelium is the inner layer of cells. Blood flows through the hollow centers of the arteries.

Blocked or ruptured arteries can lead to tissue damage or death. Arteries like the common hepatic artery help supply blood to vital organs such as the liver and pancreas.

Anatomical variation

The common hepatic artery has some common anatomical variations. For example, in some cases it may originate from the superior mesenteric artery or abdominal aorta rather than the celiac trunk.

Another common variation is a trigeminal or three-way branch into the left and right hepatic and gastroduodenal arteries without the proper hepatic artery.

A rare variant involves the hepatic artery originating from the abdominal aorta. Understanding these changes is especially important to avoid vascular damage during organ transplantation. Certain hepatic artery variations, such as a shorter right hepatic artery, can complicate surgery in this area.

Function

The function of the common hepatic artery is to supply oxygen-rich blood to the duodenum, pancreas, liver, and certain parts of the stomach, including the pylorus (a valve that opens and closes during digestion).

clinical significance

Because the common hepatic artery supplies blood to multiple organs, disease of this artery can cause serious problems. They can also be signs of an underlying disease. Underlying diseases or disorders that may affect the common hepatic artery include:

  • Aneurysm: This weakening of the arterial wall can cause the artery to rupture, leading to internal bleeding. Rarely seen in the common hepatic artery.
  • Atherosclerosis: This disease involves the buildup of plaque in the arteries, which can lead to life-threatening blockages or clots. When a blood clot forms in the common hepatic artery, this is called hepatic artery thrombosis. This thrombosis can also be a complication of liver transplantation.
  • Peptic ulcer: A peptic ulcer is a painful erosion of the lining of the stomach or small intestine. If left untreated, stomach and small bowel (or duodenal) ulcers can eventually affect nearby arteries, potentially causing severe bleeding.
  • narrow. Stenosis is the narrowing of an artery. Hepatic artery stenosis is a common complication after liver transplantation. It occurs in approximately 3.1%–7.4% of liver transplant patients.

generalize

The common hepatic artery is an artery that branches from the celiac trunk and supplies multiple abdominal organs, including the pancreas, stomach, and liver. It is also the only artery that supplies the liver.