Historically, the dorsal arterial system of the hand received less attention than the palmar system. The studies concerning dorsal arterial anatomy present some controversies regarding the origin and presence of the dorsal metacarpal artery branches. Knowledge of the anatomy of dorsal metacarpal arteries is especially applied in the surgical planning for flaps taken from the dorsum of the hand. The purpose of this study is to analyze the arterial anatomy of the dorsum of the hand, compare our observations with those of previous studies from the literature, and therefore to define parameters for surgical planning for flaps supplied by the dorsal metacarpal arteries. METHOD: Twenty-six dissections were performed at the dorsum of the right hand of 26 cadavers by making a distal-based U-shaped incision. After catheterization of the radial artery at the wrist level, a plastic dye solution with low viscosity and quick solidification was injected to allow adequate exposure of even small vessels. The radial artery and its branches, the dorsal arterial arch, the dorsal metacarpal arteries, the distal and proximal communicating branches of the palmar system, and the distal cutaneous branches were carefully dissected and identified. RESULTS: The distal cutaneous branches originating from the dorsal metacarpal arteries were observed in all cases; these were located an average of 1.2 cm proximal from the metacarpophalangeal joint. The first dorsal metacarpal artery presented in 3 different patterns regarding its course: fascial, subfascial, and mixed. The branching pattern of the radial artery at the first intermetacarpal space was its division into 3 branches. We observed the presence of the dorsal arterial arch arising from the radial artery in 100% of the cases. The distance between the dorsal arterial arch and the branching point of the radial artery was an average of 2 cm. The first and second dorsal metacarpal arteries were visualized in all cases. The third and fourth dorsal metacarpal arteries were visualized in 96.2% and 92.3% of cases, respectively. There was proximal and distal communication between the dorsal arterial arch and the palmar system through the communicating branches contributing to the dorsal metacarpal artery formation. CONCLUSION: At the dorsum of the hand there is a rich arterial net that anastomoses with the palmar arterial system. This anatomical characteristic allows the utilization of the dorsal aspect of the hand as potential donor site for cutaneous flaps.
Arterial system; Dorsal; Hand; Anatomy; Fasciocutaneous flaps