Vertebral artery

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Vertebral artery
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The vertebral arteries arise from the subclavian arteries, unite as the basilar artery, and supplies blood to parts of the brain
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The branches of the subclavian artery and the course of the vertebral artery in the neck (schematic).
Source subclavian arteries
Branches Meningeal branches
Posterior spinal
Anterior spinal
Basilar artery
Vein vertebral vein
Supplies Upper spinal cord, brainstem, cerebellum, posterior part of brain
Latin arteria vertebralis
MeSH A07.231.114.839
TA A12.2.08.002
FMA 3956
Anatomical terminology

The vertebral arteries are major arteries of the neck. They arise as branches from the subclavian arteries and merge to form the single midline basilar artery. As the vertebrobasilar system, they supply blood to the upper spinal cord, brainstem, cerebellum, and posterior part of brain.


Arteries of the neck. The vertebral arteries arise from the subclavian arteries and join to form the basilar artery

The vertebral arteries arise from the subclavian arteries, one on each side of the body, then enter deep to the transverse process at the level of the 6th cervical vertebrae (C6),[1] or occasionally (in 7.5% of cases) at the level of C7. They then proceed superiorly, in the transverse foramen of each cervical vertebra.[1] Once they have passed through the transverse foramen of C1 (also known as the atlas), the vertebral arteries travel across the posterior arch of C1 and through the suboccipital triangle[citation needed] before entering the foramen magnum.[1]

Nunziante Ippolito, a Neapolitan physician, identified the "angle of Nunziante Ippolito" to find the vertebral artery, between the anterior scalene muscle and the longus colli muscle.[2]

Inside the skull, the two vertebral arteries join to form the basilar artery at the base of the Pons. The basilar artery is the main blood supply to the brainstem and connects to the Circle of Willis to potentially supply the rest of the brain if there is compromise to one of the carotids. At each cervical level, the vertebral artery sends branches to the surrounding musculature via the anterior spinal arteries.


The vertebral artery may be divided into four parts:


The left vertebral artery is usually larger and carries more blood.[3] In 3-15% of the population, a bony bridge called the arcuate foramen covers the groove for the vertebral artery on vertebra C1.


The three major arteries of the cerebellum: the SCA, AICA, and PICA. (Vertebrals labeled at bottom.)

Upper spinal cord, brainstem, cerebellum, posterior part of brain.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d editor-in-chief, Susan Standring ; section editors, Neil R. Borley; et al. (2008). Gray's anatomy : the anatomical basis of clinical practice (40th ed.). London: Churchill Livingstone. ISBN 978-0-8089-2371-8. 
  2. ^[full citation needed]
  3. ^ Albayrak, Ramazan; Degirmenci, B; Acar, M; Haktanir, A; Colbay, M; Yaman, M (2007). "Doppler sonography evaluation of flow velocity and volume of the extracranial internal carotid and vertebral arteries in healthy adults". J Clin Ultrasound. 35 (1): 27–33. doi:10.1002/jcu.20301. PMID 17149761. 

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