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Anatomy of the Common Hepatic Artery

The common hepatic artery and its branches supply multiple abdominal organs including the liver, gallbladder, pancreas, and stomach. 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 will also

  • Posted on 22nd Jan, 2022 01:30 AM
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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 will also cover its clinical significance.

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Anatomy 

Structure and Location

The common hepatic artery is located in the abdomen, near the lower portion of the T12 vertebra. It’s one of three branches coming off the celiac trunk. The celiac trunk is a major artery and the first branch of the abdominal aorta. The other celiac trunk branches include the splenic artery and the left gastric artery. 

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

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

The major branches of the common hepatic artery are:

  • Hepatic artery proper: This continuation of the common hepatic artery goes on to supply the gallbladder and liver. The gallbladder is on the underside of the liver. It stores and concentrates bile, which helps with digestion. The liver has functions including removing waste products, producing cholesterol, and regulating amino acid levels in the blood.
  • Gastroduodenal artery: This artery branches off into the right gastroepiploic and superior pancreaticoduodenal arteries, which supply the pancreas, stomach, and superior duodenum.
  • Right gastric artery: This artery branches off and supplies the stomach, specifically the lesser curvature of the organ. 

More About Arteries

Arteries are tube-shaped blood vessels that deliver oxygen-rich blood from the heart to tissues and organs throughout the body.

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

A blockage or rupture of an artery can lead to tissue damage or death. Arteries like the common hepatic artery help supply blood to important organs like the liver and pancreas.

Anatomical Variations 

The common hepatic artery has a few common anatomical variations. For example, it may arise from the superior mesenteric artery or abdominal aorta in some cases instead of the celiac trunk. 

Another common variation is a trifurcation, or three-way branching, into the left and right hepatic arteries and the gastroduodenal artery, without the presence of the proper hepatic artery.

One rare variation involves the hepatic artery arising from the abdominal aorta. Knowing these variations is particularly important for avoiding vascular damage during organ transplants. Certain hepatic artery variations, like having a short right hepatic artery, can increase the complexity of surgery in this area.

Function

The common hepatic artery’s function is to supply oxygen-rich blood to the duodenum, pancreas, liver, and 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 several organs, disorders of this artery can cause serious problems. They may also be a sign of an underlying condition. Potential disorders or diseases that can affect the common hepatic artery include:

  • Aneurysm: This weakening of the arterial wall can cause the artery to rupture, leading to internal bleeding. It is rare in the common hepatic artery.
  • Atherosclerosis: This disease involves the buildup of plaque in the arteries, which can cause life-threatening blockages or clots. When a blood clot forms in the common hepatic artery, this is known as hepatic artery thrombosis. This thrombosis can also occur as a complication of liver transplantation.
  • Peptic ulcers: A peptic ulcer is a painful erosion of the tissues lining the stomach or small intestine. Left untreated, stomach and small intestine (or duodenum) ulcers may lead to severe bleeding if they eventually affect nearby arteries.
  • Stenosis. Stenosis refers to a narrowing of the arteries. Stenosis of the hepatic artery is a common complication following liver transplant surgery. It occurs in about 3.1 to 7.4% of liver transplant patients.

Summary

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

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