Reference > Anatomy of the Human Body > VI. The Arteries > 5b. The Common Iliac Arteries
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Henry Gray (1821–1865).  Anatomy of the Human Body.  1918.
 
5b. The Common Iliac Arteries
 
(Aa. Iliacæ Communes)


The abdominal aorta divides, on the left side of the body of the fourth lumbar vertebra, into the two common iliac arteries (Figs. 531, 539). Each is about 5 cm. in length. They diverge from the termination of the aorta, pass downward and lateralward, and divide, opposite the intervertebral fibrocartilage between the last lumbar vertebra and the sacrum, into two branches, the external iliac and hypogastric arteries; the former supplies the lower extremity; the latter, the viscera and parietes of the pelvis.
   1
  The right common iliac artery (Fig. 539) is somewhat longer than the left, and passes more obliquely across the body of the last lumbar vertebra. In front of it are the peritoneum, the small intestines, branches of the sympathetic nerves, and, at its point of division, the ureter. Behind, it is separated from the bodies of the fourth and fifth lumbar vertebræ, and the intervening fibrocartilage, by the terminations of the two common iliac veins and the commencement of the inferior vena cava. Laterally, it is in relation, above, with the inferior vena cava and the right common iliac vein; and, below, with the Psoas major. Medial to it, above, is the left common iliac vein.   2
  The left common iliac artery is in relation, in front, with the peritoneum, the small intestines, branches of the sympathetic nerves, and the superior hemorrhoidal artery; and is crossed at its point of bifurcation by the ureter. It rests on the bodies of the fourth and fifth lumbar vertebræ, and the intervening fibrocartilage. The left common iliac vein lies partly medial to, and partly behind the artery; laterally, the artery is in relation with the Psoas major.   3
 
Branches.—The common iliac arteries give off small branches to the peritoneum, Psoas major, ureters, and the surrounding areolar tissue, and occasionally give origin to the iliolumbar, or accessory renal arteries.   4
 
Peculiarities.—The point of origin varies according to the bifurcation of the aorta. In three-fourths of a large number of cases, the aorta bifurcated either upon the fourth lumbar vertebra, or upon the fibrocartilage between it and the fifth; the bifurcation being, in one case out of nine, below, and in one out of eleven, above this point. In about 80 per cent. of the cases the aorta bifurcated within 1.25 cm. above or below the level of the crest of the ilium; more frequently below than above.   5
  The point of division is subject to great variety. In two-thirds of a large number of cases it was between the last lumbar vertebra and the upper border of the sacrum; being above that point in one case out of eight, and below it in one case out of six. The left common iliac artery divides lower down more frequently than the right.   6
  The relative lengths, also, of the two common iliac arteries vary. The right common iliac was the longer in sixty-three cases; the left in fifty-two; while they were equal in fifty-three. The length of the arteries varied, in five-sevenths of the cases examined, from 3.5 to 7.5 cm.; in about half of the remaining cases the artery was longer, and in the other half, shorter; the minimum length being less than 1.25 cm., the maximum, 11 cm. In rare instances, the right common iliac has been found wanting, the external iliac and hypogastric arising directly from the aorta.   7
 
Collateral Circulation.—The principal agents in carrying on the collateral circulation after the application of a ligature to the common iliac are: the anastomoses of the hemorrhoidal branches of the hypogastric with the superior hemorrhoidal from the inferior mesenteric; of the uterine, ovarian, and vesical arteries of the opposite sides; of the lateral sacral with the middle sacral artery; of the inferior epigastric with the internal mammary, inferior intercostal, and lumbar arteries; of the deep iliac circumflex with the lumbar arteries; of the iliolumbar with the last lumbar artery; of the obturator artery, by means of its pubic branch, with the vessel of the opposite side and with the inferior epigastric.   8
 
1. The Hypogastric Artery
(A. Hypogastrica; Internal Iliac Artery)


The hypogastric artery (Fig. 539) supplies the walls and viscera of the pelvis, the buttock, the generative organs, and the medial side of the thigh. It is a short, thick vessel, smaller than the external iliac, and about 4 cm. in length. It arises at the bifurcation of the common iliac, opposite the lumbosacral articulation, and, passing downward to the upper margin of the greater sciatic foramen, divides into two large trunks, an anterior and a posterior.
   9
 
Relations.—It is in relation in front with the ureter; behind, with the internal iliac vein, the lumbosacral trunk, and the Piriformis muscle; laterally, near its origin, with the external iliac vein, which lies between it and the Psoas major muscle; lower down, with the obturator nerve.   10
  
  
  
  In the fetus, the hypogastric artery is twice as large as the external iliac, and is the direct continuation of the common iliac. It ascends along the side of the bladder, and runs upward on the back of the anterior wall of the abdomen to the umbilicus, converging toward its fellow of the opposite side. Having passed through the umbilical opening, the two arteries, now termed umbilical, enter the umbilical cord, where they are coiled around the umbilical vein, and ultimately ramify in the placenta.   11
  At birth, when the placental circulation ceases, the pelvic portion only of the artery remains patent and constitutes the hypogastric and the first part of the superior vesical artery of the adult; the remainder of the vessel is converted into a solid fibrous cord, the lateral umbilical ligament (obliterated hypogastric artery) which extends from the pelvis to the umbilicus.   12
 
Peculiarities as Regards Length.—In two-thirds of a large number of cases, the length of the hypogastric varied between 2.25 and 3.4 cm.; in the remaining third it was more frequently longer than shorter, the maximum length being about 7 cm. the minimum about 1 cm.   13
  The lengths of the common iliac and hypogastric arteries bear an inverse proportion to each other, the hypogastric artery being long when the common iliac is short, and vice versa.   14
 
As Regards its Place of Division.—The place of division of the hypogastric varies between the upper margin of the sacrum and the upper border of the greater sciatic foramen.   15
  The right and left hypogastric arteries in a series of cases often differed in length, but neither seemed constantly to exceed the other.   16
 
Collateral Circulation.—The circulation after ligature of the hypogastric artery is carried on by the anastomoses of the uterine and ovarian arteries; of the vesical arteries of the two sides; of the hemorrhoidal branches of the hypogastric with those from the inferior mesenteric; of the obturator artery, by means of its pubic branch, with the vessel of the opposite side, and with the inferior epigastric and medial femoral circumflex; of the circumflex and perforating branches of the profunda femoris with the inferior gluteal; of the superior gluteal with the posterior branches of the lateral sacral arteries; of the iliolumbar with the last lumbar; of the lateral sacral with the middle sacral; and of the iliac circumflex with the iliolumbar and superior gluteal. 104   17
 
Branches.—The branches of the hypogastric artery are:   18
From the Anterior Trunk.From the Posterior Trunk.
Superior Vesical. Iliolumbar.
Middle Vesical. Lateral Sacral.
Inferior Vesical. Superior Gluteal.
Middle Hemorrhoidal.
Obturator.
Internal Pudendal.
Inferior Gluteal.
Uterine In the Female.
Vaginal
  The superior vesical artery (a. vesicalis superior) supplies numerous branches to the upper part of the bladder. From one of these a slender vessel, the artery to the ductus deferens, takes origin and accompanies the duct in its course to the testis, where it anastomoses with the internal spermatic artery. Other branches supply the ureter. The first part of the superior vesical artery represents the terminal section of the pervious portion of the fetal hypogastric artery.   19
  The middle vesical artery (a. vesicalis medialis), usually a branch of the superior, is distributed to the fundus of the bladder and the vesiculæ seminales.   20
  The inferior vesical artery (a. vesicalis inferior) frequently arises in common with the middle hemorrhoidal, and is distributed to the fundus of the bladder, the prostate, and the vesiculæ seminales. The branches to the prostate communicate with the corresponding vessels of the opposite side.   21
  The middle hemorrhoidal artery (a. hæmorrhoidalis media) usually arises with the preceding vessel. It is distributed to the rectum, anastomosing with the inferior vesical and with the superior and inferior hemorrhoidal arteries. It gives offsets to the vesiculæ seminales and prostate.   22
  The uterine artery (a. uterina) (Fig. 540) springs from the anterior division of the hypogastric and runs medialward on the Levator ani and toward the cervix uteri; about 2 cm. from the cervix it crosses above and in front of the ureter, to which it supplies a small branch. Reaching the side of the uterus it ascends in a tortuous manner between the two layers of the broad ligament to the junction of the uterine tube and uterus. It then runs lateralward toward the hilus of the ovary, and ends by joining with the ovarian artery. It supplies branches to the cervix uteri and others which descend on the vagina; the latter anastomose with branches of the vaginal arteries and form with them two median longitudinal vessels—the azygos arteries of the vagina—one of which runs down in front of and the other behind the vagina. It supplies numerous branches to the body of the uterus, and from its terminal portion twigs are distributed to the uterine tube and the round ligament of the uterus.   23
  The vaginal artery (a. vaginalis) usually corresponds to the inferior vesical in the male; it descends upon the vagina, supplying its mucous membrane, and sends branches to the bulb of the vestibule, the fundus of the bladder, and the contiguous part of the rectum. It assists in forming the azygos arteries of the vagina, and is frequently represented by two or three branches.   24


FIG. 540– The arteries of the internal organs of generation of the female, seen from behind. (After Hyrtl.) (See enlarged image)
 
  The obturator artery (a. obturatoria) passes forward and downward on the lateral wall of the pelvis, to the upper part of the obturator foramen, and, escaping from the pelvic cavity through the obturator canal, it divides into an anterior and a posterior branch. In the pelvic cavity this vessel is in relation, laterally, with the obturator fascia; medially, with the ureter, ductus deferens, and peritoneum; while a little below it is the obturator nerve.   25
 
Branches.Inside the pelvis the obturator artery gives off iliac branches to the iliac fossa, which supply the bone and the Iliacus, and anastomose with the ilio-lumbar artery; a vesical branch, which runs backward to supply the bladder; and a public branch, which is given off from the vessel just before it leaves the pelvic cavity. The pubic branch ascends upon the back of the pubis, communicating with the corresponding vessel of the opposite side, and with the inferior epigastric artery.   26
  Outside the pelvis, the obturator artery divides at the upper margin of the obturator foramen, into an anterior and a posterior branch which encircle the foramen under cover of the Obturator externus.   27
  The anterior branch runs forward on the outer surface of the obturator membrane and then curves downward along the anterior margin of the foramen. It distributes branches to the Obturator externus, Pectineus, Adductores, and Gracilis, and anastomoses with the posterior branch and with the medial femoral circumflex artery.   28
  The posterior branch follows the posterior margin of the foramen and turns forward on the inferior ramus of the ischium, where it anastomoses with the anterior branch. It gives twigs to the muscles attached to the ischial tuberosity and anastomoses with the inferior gluteal. It also supplies an articular branch which enters the hip-joint through the acetabular notch, ramifies in the fat at the bottom of the acetabulum and sends a twig along the ligamentum teres to the head of the femur.   29
 
Peculiarities.—The obturator artery sometimes arises from the main stem or from the posterior trunk of the hypogastric, or it may spring from the superior gluteal artery; occasionally it arises from the external iliac. In about two out of every seven cases it springs from the inferior epigastric and descends almost vertically to the upper part of the obturator foramen. The artery in this course usually lies in contact with the external iliac vein, and on the lateral side of the femoral ring (Fig. 541 A); in such cases it would not be endangered in the operation for strangulated femoral hernia. Occasionally, however, it curves along the free margin of the lacunar ligament (Fig. 541 B), and if in such circumstances a femoral hernia occurred, the vessel would almost completely encircle the neck of the hernial sac, and would be in great danger of being wounded if an operation were performed for strangulation.   30


FIG. 541– Variations in origin and course of obturator artery. (See enlarged image)
 
  The internal pudendal artery (a. pudenda interna; internal pudic artery) is the smaller of the two terminal branches of the anterior trunk of the hypogastric, and supplies the external organs of generation. Though the course of the artery is the same in the two sexes, the vessel is smaller in the female than in the male, and the distribution of its branches somewhat different. The description of its arrangement in the male will first be given, and subsequently the differences which it presents in the female will be mentioned.   31
  The internal pudendal artery in the male passes downward and outward to the lower border of the greater sciatic foramen, and emerges from the pelvis between the Piriformis and Coccygeus; it then crosses the ischial spine, and enters the perineum through the lesser sciatic foramen. The artery now crosses the Obturator internus, along the lateral wall of the ischiorectal fossa, being situated about 4 cm. above the lower margin of the ischial tuberosity. It gradually approaches the margin of the inferior ramus of the ischium and passes forward between the two layers of the fascia of the urogenital diaphragm; it then runs forward along the medial margin of the inferior ramus of the pubis, and about 1.25 cm. behind the pubic arcuate ligament it pierces the inferior fascia of the urogenital diaphragm and divides into the dorsal and deep arteries of the penis.   32
 
Relations.—Within the pelvis, it lies in front of the Piriformis muscle, the sacral plexus of nerves, and the inferior gluteal artery. As it crosses the ischial spine, it is covered by the Glutæus maximus and overlapped by the sacrotuberous ligament. Here the pudendal nerve lies to the medial side and the nerve to the Obturator internus to the lateral side of the vessel. In the perineum it lies on the lateral wall of the ischiorectal fossa, in a canal (Alcock’s canal) formed by the splitting of the obturator fascia. It is accompanied by a pair of venæ comitantes and the pudendal nerve.   33
 
Peculiarities.—The internal pudendal artery is sometimes smaller than usual, or fails to give off one or two of its usual branches; in such cases the deficiency is supplied by branches derived from an additional vessel, the accessory pudendal, which generally arises from the internal pudendal artery before its exit from the greater sciatic foramen. It passes forward along the lower part of the bladder and across the side of the prostate to the root of the penis, where it perforates the urogenital diaphragm, and gives off the branches usually derived from the internal pudendal artery. The deficiency most frequently met with is that in which the internal pudendal ends as the artery of the urethral bulb, the dorsal and deep arteries of the penis being derived from the accessory pudendal. The internal pudendal artery may also end as the perineal, the artery of the urethral bulb being derived, with the other two branches, from the accessory vessel. Occasionally the accessory pudendal artery is derived from one of the other branches of the hypogastric artery, most frequently the inferior vesical or the obturator.   34
 
Branches.—The branches of the internal pudendal artery (Figs. 542, 543) are:   35
Muscular.
Artery of the Urethral Bulb.
Inferior Hemorrhoidal.
Urethral.
Perineal.
Deep Artery of the Penis.
Dorsal Artery of the Penis.


FIG. 542– The superficial branches of the internal pudendal artery. (See enlarged image)
 
  The Muscular Branches consist of two sets: one given off in the pelvis; the other, as the vessel crosses the ischial spine. The former consists of several small offsets which supply the Levator ani, the Obturator internus, the Piriformis, and the Coccygeus. The branches given off outside the pelvis are distributed to the adjacent parts of the Glutæus maximus and external rotator muscles. They anastomose with branches of the inferior gluteal artery.   36
  The Inferior Hemorrhoidal Artery (a. hæmorrhoidalis inferior) arises from the internal pudendal as it passes above the ischial tuberosity. Piercing the wall of Alcock’s canal it divides into two or three branches which cross the ischiorectal fossa, and are distributed to the muscles and integument of the anal region, and send offshoots around the lower edge of the Glutæus maximus to the skin of the buttock. They anastomose with the corresponding vessels of the opposite side, with the superior and middle hemorrhoidal, and with the perineal artery.   37
  The Perineal Artery (a. perinei; superficial perineal artery) arises from the internal pudendal, in front of the preceding branches, and turns upward, crossing either over or under the Transversus perinæi superficialis, and runs forward, parallel to the pubic arch, in the interspace between the Bulbocavernosus and Ischiocavernosus, both of which it supplies, and finally divides into several posterior scrotal branches which are distributed to the skin and dartos tunic of the scrotum. As it crosses the Transversus perinæi superficialis it gives off the transverse perineal artery which runs transversely on the cutaneous surface of the muscle, and anastomoses with the corresponding vessel of the opposite side and with the perineal and inferior hemorrhoidal arteries. It supplies the Transversus perinæi superficialis and the structures between the anus and the urethral bulb.   38


FIG. 543– The deeper branches of the internal pudendal artery. (See enlarged image)
 
  The Artery of the Urethral Bulb (a. bulbi urethræ) is a short vessel of large caliber which arises from the internal pudendal between the two layers of fascia of the urogenital diaphragm; it passes medialward, pierces the inferior fascia of the urogenital diaphragm, and gives off branches which ramify in the bulb of the urethra and in the posterior part of the corpus cavernosum urethræ. It gives off a small branch to the bulbo-urethral gland.   39
  The Urethral Artery (a. urethralis) arises a short distance in front of the artery of the urethral bulb. It runs forward and medialward, pierces the inferior fascia of the urogenital diaphragm and enters the corpus cavernosum urethræ, in which it is continued forward to the glans penis.   40
  The Deep Artery of the Penis (a. profunda penis; artery to the corpus cavernosum), one of the terminal branches of the internal pudendal, arises from that vessel while it is situated between the two fasciæ of the urogenital diaphragm; it pierces the inferior fascia, and, entering the crus penis obliquely, runs forward in the center of the corpus cavernosum penis, to which its branches are distributed.   41
  The Dorsal Artery of the Penis (a. dorsalis penis) ascends between the crus penis and the pubic symphysis, and, piercing the inferior fascia of the urogenital diaphragm, passes between the two layers of the suspensory ligament of the penis, and runs forward on the dorsum of the penis to the glans, where it divides into two branches, which supply the glans and prepuce. On the penis, it lies between the dorsal nerve and deep dorsal vein, the former being on its lateral side. It supplies the integument and fibrous sheath of the corpus cavernosum penis, sending branches through the sheath to anastomose with the preceding vessel.   42
  The internal pudendal artery in the female is smaller than in the male. Its origin and course are similar, and there is considerable analogy in the distribution of its branches. The perineal artery supplies the labia pudendi; the artery of the bulb supplies the bulbus vestibuli and the erectile tissue of the vagina; the deep artery of the clitoris supplies the corpus cavernosum clitoridis; and the dorsal artery of the clitoris supplies the dorsum of that organ, and ends in the glans and prepuce of the clitoris.   43
  The inferior gluteal artery (a. glutæa inferior; sciatic artery) (Fig. 544), the larger of the two terminal branches of the anterior trunk of the hypogastric, is distributed chiefly to the buttock and back of the thigh. It passes down on the sacral plexus of nerves and the Piriformis, behind the internal pudendal artery, to the lower part of the greater sciatic foramen, through which it escapes from the pelvis between the Piriformis and Coccygeus. It then descends in the interval between the greater trochanter of the femur and tuberosity of the ischium, accompanied by the sciatic and posterior femoral cutaneous nerves, and covered by the Glutæus maximus, and is continued down the back of the thigh, supplying the skin, and anastomosing with branches of the perforating arteries.   44
  Inside the pelvis it distributes branches to the Piriformis, Coccygeus, and Levator ani; some branches which supply the fat around the rectum, and occasionally take the place of the middle hemorrhoidal artery; and vesical branches to the fundus of the bladder, vesiculæ seminales, and prostate. Outside the pelvis it gives off the following branches:   45
Muscular.
Anastomotic.
Coccygeal.
Articular.
Comitans Nervi Ischiadici.
Cutaneous.
  The Muscular Branches supply the Glutæus maximus, anastomosing with the superior gluteal artery in the substance of the muscle; the external rotators, anastomosing with the internal pudendal artery; and the muscles attached to the tuberosity of the ischium, anastomosing with the posterior branch of the obturator and the medial femoral circumflex arteries.   46
  The Coccygeal Branches run medialward, pierce the sacrotuberous ligament, and supply the Glutæus maximus, the integument, and other structures on the back of the coccyx.   47
  The Arteria Comitans Nervi Ischiadici is a long, slender vessel, which accompanies the sciatic nerve for a short distance; it then penetrates it, and runs in its substance to the lower part of the thigh.   48
  The Anastomotic is directed downward across the external rotators, and assists in forming the so-called crucial anastomosis by joining with the first perforating and medial and lateral femoral circumflex arteries.   49
  The Articular Branch, generally derived from the anastomotic, is distributed to the capsule of the hip-joint.   50
  The Cutaneous Branches are distributed to the skin of the buttock and back of the thigh.   51
  The iliolumbar artery (a. iliolumbalis) a branch of the posterior trunk of the hypogastric, turns upward behind the obturator nerve and the external iliac vessels, to the medial border of the Psoas major, behind which it divides into a lumbar and an iliac branch.   52
  The Lumbar Branch (ramus lumbalis) supplies the Psoas major and Quadratus lumborum, anastomoses with the last lumbar artery, and sends a small spinal branch through the intervertebral foramen between the last lumbar vertebra and the sacrum, into the vertebral canal, to supply the cauda equina.   53
  The Iliac Branch (ramus iliacus) descends to supply the Iliacus; some offsets, running between the muscle and the bone, anastomose with the iliac branches of the obturator; one of these enters an oblique canal to supply the bone, while others run along the crest of the ilium, distributing branches to the gluteal and abdominal muscles, and anastomosing in their course with the superior gluteal, iliac circumflex, and lateral femoral circumflex arteries.   54
  The lateral sacral arteries (aa. sacrales laterales) (Fig. 539) arise from the posterior division of the hypogastric; there are usually two, a superior and an inferior.   55
  The superior, of large size, passes medialward, and, after anastomosing with branches from the middle sacral, enters the first or second anterior sacral foramen, supplies branches to the contents of the sacral canal, and, escaping by the corresponding posterior sacral foramen, is distributed to the skin and muscles on the dorsum of the sacrum, anastomosing with the superior gluteal.   56


FIG. 544– The arteries of the gluteal and posterior femoral regions. (See enlarged image)
 
  The inferior runs obliquely across the front of the Piriformis and the sacral nerves to the medial side of the anterior sacral foramina, descends on the front of the sacrum, and anastomoses over the coccyx with the middle sacral and opposite lateral sacral artery. In its course it gives off branches, which enter the anterior sacral foramina; these, after supplying the contents of the sacral canal, escapes by the posterior sacral foramina, and are distributed to the muscles and skin on the dorsal surface of the sacrum, anastomosing with the gluteal arteries.   57
  The superior gluteal artery (a. glutæa superior; gluteal artery) (Fig. 544) is the largest branch of the hypogastric, and appears to be the continuation of the posterior division of that vessel. It is a short artery which runs backward between the lumbosacral trunk and the first sacral nerve, and, passing out of the pelvis above the upper border of the Piriformis, immediately divides into a superficial and a deep branch. Within the pelvis it gives off a few branches to the Iliacus, Piriformis, and Obturator internus, and just previous to quitting that cavity, a nutrient artery which enters the ilium.   58
  The superficial branch enters the deep surface of the Glutæus maximus, and divides into numerous branches, some of which supply the muscle and anastomose with the inferior gluteal, while others perforate its tendinous origin, and supply the integument covering the posterior surface of the sacrum, anastomosing with the posterior branches of the lateral sacral arteries.   59
  The deep branch lies under the Glutæus medius and almost immediately subdivides into two. Of these, the superior division, continuing the original course of the vessel, passes along the upper border of the Glutæus minimus to the anterior superior spine of the ilium, anastomosing with the deep iliac circumflex artery and the ascending branch of the lateral femoral circumflex artery. The inferior division crosses the Glutæus minimus obliquely to the greater trochanter, distributing branches to the Glutæi and anastomoses with the lateral femoral circumflex artery. Some branches pierce the Glutæus minimus and supply the hip-joint.   60
Note 104.  For a description of a case in which Owen made a dissection ten years after ligature of the hypogastric artery, see Med.-Chir. Trans., vol. xvi. [back]

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