The Anatomy of the Right Hepatic Artery

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The right hepatic artery supplies oxygenated blood to the right side of the liver. It usually branches off from the common hepatic artery, which supplies blood to multiple organs, including the liver, pancreas, stomach, and gallbladder. 

This article will look at the anatomy, function, and clinical significance of the right hepatic artery. 

Liver anatomy

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Anatomy

Structure and Location

The right hepatic artery is located in the abdomen. It’s a branch of the hepatic artery proper, which is a branch of the common hepatic artery that supplies oxygenated blood to various abdominal organs.

It continues from the hepatic artery proper and goes behind the common hepatic duct (a tube that carries a fluid called bile away from the liver) into what’s called Calot’s triangle, an area that contains the cystic duct (a tube that carries bile away from the gallbladder) and common hepatic duct, along with a portion of the liver.

As it nears the cystic duct, the right hepatic artery produces the cystic artery. The cystic artery supplies the gallbladder. As the right hepatic artery moves upward, it enters the right portion of the liver.

Inside the liver, the right hepatic artery divides into two parts: the anterior (front) segmental branch and the posterior (back) segmental branch.

Anatomical Variations 

In some people, the right hepatic artery stems from the superior mesenteric artery instead of the common hepatic artery. This is called a replaced right hepatic artery. It occurs in about 10.6% of people. Rarely, the right hepatic artery stems from the gastroduodenal artery. 

Surgeons need to know where the right hepatic artery is positioned, especially in the case of laparoscopic gallbladder removal (in which instruments are inserted through small incisions and the organ is removed). But this information is also vital for other surgeries like liver transplantation.

Function 

The right hepatic artery supplies oxygen-rich blood to the right side of the liver.

Why Is the Liver Important?

Your liver plays many important roles, including:

  • Filtering blood and breaking down toxins like alcohol
  • Producing bile to help digest fats and remove waste
  • Helping prevent infection by filtering bacteria from the blood
  • Processing excess sugar and storing it as glycogen
  • Producing albumin, a protein that prevents fluids from leaking out of the blood into bodily tissues
  • Regulating amino acid production to help produce proteins
  • Regulating blood clotting
  • Storing essential vitamins and minerals


Clinical Significance 

Because the right hepatic artery supplies blood to the liver, a disorder of the artery can cause serious problems. Sometimes, problems with the right hepatic artery can signal an underlying condition. 

Potential diseases or disorders that can affect the right hepatic artery include:

  • Aneurysm: When the walls of an artery weaken, this can cause an outpouching called an aneurysm. An aneurysm can rupture, causing life-threatening internal bleeding. Aneurysms of the right hepatic artery can happen but are very rare.
  • Atherosclerosis: This is a condition that causes the hardening or thickening of the walls of the arteries due to a buildup of cholesterol plaque. You’re more likely to develop atherosclerosis if you have high cholesterol and triglycerides, high blood pressure, type 1 diabetes, or obesity. Smokers and people with sedentary lifestyles also have an increased risk. Atherosclerosis in the right hepatic artery is rare but can occur and cause problems with the liver.
  • Thrombosis: This happens when clots form in the blood and block veins or arteries like the right hepatic artery. Thrombosis is a common complication of liver transplant surgery. It’s a severe complication that can lead to liver failure and the eventual need for a new donor liver.
  • Stenosis: Narrowing of the right hepatic artery, also known as stenosis, can also happen as a complication of liver transplant surgery. It rarely happens in people not getting a liver transplant.
  • Compression of the extrahepatic bile duct (EBD): This rare syndrome occurs when the right hepatic artery compresses the EBD. This can cause cholangitis, an inflammation of the bile duct system that causes fever, pain in the belly, chills, jaundice (yellow skin and whites of the eyes), nausea and vomiting, and lethargy.

Signs of Liver Problems or Failure

Problems with the hepatic arteries can lead to liver failure or other problems with this organ. Possible symptoms of liver failure include:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Upset stomach
  • Jaundice
  • Fever and chills
  • Fatigue
  • Dehydration
  • Confusion
  • Appetite loss
  • Floating stools
  • Yellow urine or dark urine

Summary 

The right hepatic artery is an artery that branches off the proper hepatic artery, an extension of the common hepatic artery. It supplies blood to the right portion of the liver. It’s the only source of oxygen-rich blood for this part of the liver. 

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9 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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