The vascular patterns of the palmar arches and their interconnecting branches present a complex and challenging area of study. Improvements in microsurgical techniques have made a better understanding of vascular patterns and vessel diameters more important. Forty-five fresh limbs from cadavers were amputated at the level of the midhumerus. Ward's red latex or Batson's compound was injected under pressure to visualize the arterial system in the hand. After hardening of the injected material, the skin, subcutaneous tissues, and tendons were removed. The specimens were digested in concentrated potassium or sodium hydroxide leaving the bony elements and a cast of the arterial system. The superficial palmar arch is most easily classified into two categories: complete or incomplete. An arch is considered to be complete if an anastomosis is found between the vessels constituting it. An incomplete arch has an absence of a communication or anastomosis between the vessels constituting the arch. Complete superficial palmar arches were seen in 84.4% of specimens. In the most common type, the superficial arch was formed by anastomosis between the superficial volar branch of the radial artery and the ulnar artery. This was seen in 35.5% of specimens. In 31.1%, the arch was formed entirely of the ulnar artery. Incomplete superficial arches were seen in 15.5% of specimens. In 11.1%, the ulnar artery forms the superficial arch but does not contribute to the blood supply to the thumb and index finger. The deep palmar arch was found to be less variable with 44.4% formed by an anastomosis between the deep volar branch of the radial artery and the inferior deep branch of the ulnar artery. Injection followed by chemical debridement allows direct visualization and measurement of the arches and the smaller arterial branches that are visualized poorly with other techniques. Based on the vessel measured, vessels of the superficial and deep arches are of sufficient size to allow microvascular repair, although repair of the communicating branches, the dorsal carpal rete, and its branches, probably is not feasible because of their small size.
From the *University of Miami, Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, Miami FL; **Scripps Clinic, San Diego, CA; the †University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA; and ‡Washington University, St Louis, MO.
Reprint requests to Harris Gellman, MD, University of Miami, Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, 900 Northwest 17th Street, Suite 549, Miami, FL 33136.