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Anatomy Atlases: Illustrated Encyclopedia of Human Anatomic Variation: Opus II: Cardiovascular System: Arteries: Head, Neck, and Thorax: Thymic Artery

Illustrated Encyclopedia of Human Anatomic Variation: Opus II: Cardiovascular System: Arteries: Head, Neck, and Thorax

Thymic Artery

Ronald A. Bergman, PhD
Adel K. Afifi, MD, MS
Ryosuke Miyauchi, MD

Peer Review Status: Internally Peer Reviewed

The thymic artery usually arises from the anterior mediastinal branch of the internal thoracic, but it may also arise as a sizable branch of the ascending aorta or aortic arch, or from the brachiocephalic, common carotid, inferior thyroid, pericardiacophrenic, or internal thoracic directly.

In one study, (Bell, et al., 1954), the blood supply to the thymus was reported as follows: of 77 subjects studied, the thymus was supplied by the internal thoracic in 59 cases (the right internal thoracic in 28 and the left in 29), the pericardiacophrenic in 13 (the right side in eight and the left in five), the inferior thyroid in six (the right side in two and the left in four), and the brachiocephalic in two. Origin from the middle thyroid artery of Neubauer is rare.

In the Yamasaki study (1989), among various arteries, the middle thymothyreoid artery showed the highest frequency of 44% in fetuses and 27.3% in adults. The superior thymic artery and the middle thymic artery were also abundant, being 33.7% (fetus) and 18.8% (fetus) and 32.6% (adult) and 14.3% (adult) in the two arteries respectively. The supreme thymic and and thyroid ima arteries arising from the internal thoracic artery were extremely rare. There were no sex differences found in this study.

Yamasaki reported finding four cases (1 in an adult and 3 in fetuses) of the thymic artery arising from the superior thyroid artery in 77 adult cadavers and 45 fetuses. These arteries were distinguished from anterior and posterior rami because they reached the thymus directly, and in most cases, they had a sternomastoid branch. Hence the superior thyroid artery may supply both the thyroid gland and the thymus. This branch may disappear in an early stage of development - it may also persist. Yamaski states that the proximal portion of this thymic artery may remain as the stem of the sternomastoid branch or as a lateral branch of the superior thyroid artery. The author suggests that the branch in question be called the "supreme thymic artery" (A. thymica suprema), because of its location and anatomical significance.


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