Jacobs Journal of Anatomy and Physiology

Dorsal Metacarpal Arteries: Missing and Incorrect Terms

*Christopher George Lutterodt
Department Of Physiology, Chelsea And Westminster Hospital, Chelsea, United Kingdom

*Corresponding Author:
Christopher George Lutterodt
Department Of Physiology, Chelsea And Westminster Hospital, Chelsea, United Kingdom

Published on: 2018-05-21


Extensive review of the literature has highlighted significant discrepancies regarding the nomenclature of the dorsal metacarpal arteries despite the anatomical findings first described as far back as 1911 remaining consistent. The variation in terminology has therefore caused considerable confusion amongst many readers. We seek to offer clarification of those inconsistent  anatomical terms through a review of the current literature.


Dorsal Metacarpal Artery, Cutaneous Blood Supply, First Dorsal Metacarpal Artery, Dorsal Intermetacarpal Artery, Common Digital Artery


The latest version of the International Anatomic Nomenclature (Terminologia Anatomica) published in 1998 is the result of almost a decade of research. However, the terminology described and that currently used by clinicians differs significantly. Reconstruction of soft tissue defects in the hand poses both a functional and aesthetic challenge. Traditionally, use of dorsal skin is ideal because of its functional redundancy and ease of local manipulation. Knowledge of the cutaneous blood supply has helped surgeons in this cause. As our anatomical knowledge of the peripheral vasculature has improved, success in local tissue transfer has increased, allowing the safe movement of larger skin islands based on specified vascular territories. Cutaneous flap design based on accurately named blood vessels allows better communication between surgeons. Having extensively reviewed the literature on the blood supply to the dorsum of the hand, we have found that the anatomical findings are consistent, but that the nomenclature is inconsistent and unreliable. This is particularly true for the dorsal metacarpal arteries to the thumb. We have therefore scrutinised and consolidated these findings into a scientific format.