|Year : 2013 | Volume
| Issue : 4 | Page : 154-158
Study of the course of inferior epigastric artery with reference to laparoscopic portal
Manvikar Purushottam Rao, Vatsala Swamy, Vasanti Arole, Paramatma Mishra
Department of Anatomy, Padmashree Dr. D. Y. Patil Medical College, Pimpri, Pune-411018, Maharashtra, India
|Date of Submission||30-Oct-2012|
|Date of Acceptance||08-Mar-2013|
|Date of Web Publication||27-Sep-2013|
Manvikar Purushottam Rao
Department of Anatomy, Padmashree Dr. D. Y. Patil Medical College, Pimpri, Pune-411018, Maharashtra
Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None
Introduction: Laparoscopy has been in vogue for more than 2 decades. Making portals in the anterior abdominal wall for introducing laparoscopic instruments is done with trocar and cannula which is a blind procedure. Stab incision and trocar insertion, though safe, at times can lead to injury of blood vessels of anterior abdominal wall more so the inferior epigastric artery (IEA). Trauma to abdominal wall vessels is 0.2%-2% of laparoscopic procedures and said to be 3 per 1000 cases. Injury to IEA is one of the commonest complications seen. Purpose of the present study was to observe the course of IEA in 50 formalin preserved cadavers, by dissection. Materials and Methods: In 50 formalin fixed cadavers, IEA was exposed by opening the rectus sheath. Rectus was divided and IEA was exposed. Five reference points A, B, C, D, and E were defined. A was at pubic symphysis, while E at umbilicus. B, C, and D were marked at the distance of 3.5, 7, and 10.5 cm, respectively from pubic symphysis. Distances of the IEA from these midline points were measured with the help of sliding vernier calipers. Results: Significant observation was variations in the length of IEA. It was seen to end at a lower level than normal (three cases on right and four on left side) by piercing rectus. In 14, cadavers artery did not reach up to umbilicus on both sides. Nearest point of entry of IEA in to rectus sheath at the level of pubic symphysis was 1.2 cm on left and 3.2 cm on right side. Farthest point from point A was 6.8 cm on right and 6.9 cm on left side. Width of strip of abdominal wall which was likely to have IEA beneath was up to 4 cm till level C and beyond which it widened up to 5cm on left side and 6 cm on right at umbilicus. Discussion: Present study did reveal notable variations in length and termination of IEA. No uniformity in entry of IEA in to the rectus sheath was observed. Findings did concur with earlier observations but the strip of skin of arterial zone was not equidistant from midline but had moved more medially on left side. Medial limit of this safety zone found to be lesser than 2 cm on left side. However, the lateral limit of the zone was within 7.5 cm. Additional variation was strip of abdominal wall likely to have IEA beneath was up to 4 cm till level C and had diverging limits beyond C. IEA was more notorious in its course. These variations prompt for a preoperative mapping of IEA and thus a useful step in preoperative protocol.
Keywords: Inferior epigastric artery, laparoscopy injury, portal, rectus sheath
|How to cite this article:|
Rao MP, Swamy V, Arole V, Mishra P. Study of the course of inferior epigastric artery with reference to laparoscopic portal. J Min Access Surg 2013;9:154-8
|How to cite this URL:|
Rao MP, Swamy V, Arole V, Mishra P. Study of the course of inferior epigastric artery with reference to laparoscopic portal. J Min Access Surg [serial online] 2013 [cited 2020 Jan 21];9:154-8. Available from: http://www.journalofmas.com/text.asp?2013/9/4/154/118826
| ¤ Introduction|| |
Laparoscopy has been in vogue for various surgical procedures for more than 2 decades. Gastroenterologists, gynaecologists, and general surgeons are extensively using abdominal laparoscopy for various surgeries like tubectomy, appendicectomy, choloecystectomy, to name a few. Patric Steptoe, one of the pioneers in laparoscopy, used this approach for aspiration of preovulatory oocytes in in vitro fertilization.  Making necessary portals in the anterior abdominal wall for introducing laparoscope and its accessory instruments are done with trocar and cannula after inflating the peritoneal cavity with air. Piercing sharp trocar is a blind procedure. Using the conventional established points for making portals, though safe, at times can lead to injury of blood vessels of anterior abdominal wall, as course of blood vessels supplying anterior abdominal wall is not mapped preoperatively, mainly the inferior epigastric artery (IEA). Trauma to abdominal wall vessels is 0.2%-2% of laparoscopic procedures. Injury to IEA is one of the commonest complications encountered and the incidence is about 3 per 1000 cases.  Mapping IEA, hence, is an important guideline to avoid vessel injury. IEAs,conventionally, are understood to be located in the area between 4 and 8 cm from midline, and hence staying away from this dangerous strip defines safety zone for entering the anterior abdominal wall.  However, variations in the course of IEA can cause hemorrhage as a result of injury to the vessel. Variations in the origin, course of IEA and abnormal communication of IEA, and obturator artery can be studied by cadaveric dissection, computed tomography (CT) and ultrasonography. Present study was conducted to understand the course of IEA on right and left side in 50 formalin preserved cadavers used for dissection of 1 st year medical students.
Inferior Epigastric Artery
Inferior epigastric artery (IEA) refers to the artery that arises from the external iliac artery and anastomoses with the superior epigastric artery. Along its course, it is accompanied by inferior epigastric vein. It arises from the external iliac, immediately above the inguinal ligament. 
It curves forward in the subperitoneal tissue and then ascends obliquely along the medial margin of the deep inguinal ring; continuing its course upward, it pierces the transversalis fascia, and passing in front of the linea semicircularis (arcuate line), ascends between the rectus abdominis and the posterior lamella of its sheath.
It finally divides into numerous branches, which anastomose, above the umbilicus, with the branches of superior epigastric branch of the internal mammary (internal thoracic artery) and with the lower intercostal arteries.
As the IEA passes obliquely upward from its origin, it lies along the lower and medial margins of the deep inguinal ring and behind the commencement of the spermatic cord. The vas deferens, in the male, as it leaves the spermatic cord, and the round ligament of the uterus in the female, winds around the lateral and posterior aspects of the artery. Present study was primarily aimed to find out the course of IEA, variations in its termination and its distance from midline.
Review Of Literature
Though the IEA commonly arises from external iliac artery between the inguinal ligament and a point 6 cm above it, variation of origin of IEA is not uncommon. Origin below inguinal ligament, from the femoral artery, external iliac, by a common trunk with the obturator or as a branch of obturator artery is well-recorded. 
Sometimes it arises from the obturator, the latter vessel being furnished by the hypogastric, or it may be formed of two branches, one derived from the external iliac, the other from the hypogastric. 
Rare origin of IEA from medial circumflex femoral artery in the femoral triangle with an anomalous course upward below inguinal ligament has been reported by Shanhan and Jordan.  Surface anatomy of IEA was defined in a study of posterior surface of anterior abdominal walls in 30 cadavers. A total of 60 IEA were studied at the level of umbilicus and anterior superior iliac spines (ASIS) and calculated the confidence intervals from the midline. Their study concluded that, midline is avacsular, main stem of artery can be avoided if trocars are inserted more than two-third distance along the levels of line joining midline and ASIS, and branches of IEA are least in the lower part of abdomen lateral to artery. Authors also noticed variability in the branching pattern of IEA. 
Saber et al.,  studied abdominal and pelvic CT images of 100 patients and mapped the course of IEA at various levels. At umbilicus, IEA was 5.88 +/− 0.14 cm on the right and 5.55 +/− 0.13 cm on the left of the midline. Midway between the umbilicus and symphysis pubis, (IEA) was 5.32 +/− 0.12 cm on right and 5.25 +/− 0.11 cm on the left. At the symphysis pubis, the IEA, were 7.47 +/− 0.10 cm on the right and 7.49 +/− 0.09 cm away from the midline on the left side. Authors concluded that epigastric vessels are usually located in the area between 4 and 8 cm from the midline. There was a wide range of variation to the extent of 4 cm. Authors came out with a concept of safe zone, on either side of midline after excluding the strip of skin with arterial course on either side of midline. 
Sriprasad et al.,  in a study of positional anatomy of inferior epigastric vessels with relation to umbilicus, mapped the course of IEA at two levels, one at umbilicus and other at the plane of ASIS using color Doppler. It was noticed that that distance of IEA did not exceed 6cm on either side in any patient.
Incidence of "corona mortis", a variable communications between IEA and obturator vessels, has been reported as 77.27% and that of aberrant vessels is 13.6%. The average distance of the vessels from midline was about 5.8 cm and above superior pubic ramus was about 1.37 cm. 
Raje et al.,  in a case report of laparoscopic transabdominal preperitoneal repair of bilateral inguinal hernia, encountered injury to IEA. Authors are of the opinion that injury is a rare yet well-known phenomenon during laparoscopic hernia repair and almost all reported cases have been due to trocar injury.
Quint et al.,  attempted to visualize epigastric vessels by transillumination method before insertion of trocar. In a study of 103 patients, vessels could be visualized in 64% of cases, while in rest of the cases visualization was not satisfactory in dark skinned women. Transillumination was done for location of anterior abdominal wall vessels (in 47 white and 21 black women) with various weights posted for laparoscopy, single vessel could be seen in more than 90%, approximately 5 cm from midline and second vessel about 8 cm in 51% of patients. More medial vessels did not correlate with the course of IEA, and color of the skin and weight of the patient hampered the visibility. The authors concluded that transillumination is not a definitive method to map the course of IEA.
| ¤ Materials and Methods|| |
IEA was studied by dissection of 50 formalin fixed cadavers. Five were of female gender. IEA was dissected out by exposing the rectus sheath.
A standard midline incision from xiphisternum to pubic symhysis was taken circumscribing umbicus in the middle. Skin was reflected on both sides and aponeurosis of external oblique abdominis and linea alba were defined. Anterior layer of rectus sheath was cut longitudinally to expose the contents of rectus sheath. IEA was exposed by opening the rectus sheath. Rectus abdominis was divided in the middle and cut ends of the muscle were retracted. Inferior epigastric vessels were cleaned [Figure 1]. Five reference points in the midline on linea alba were defined. These were labeled as A, B, C, D, and E. Point A was at pubic symphysis, while point E was at umbilicus. Reference points B, C, and D were marked at the distance of 3.5, 7, and 10.5 cm, respectively from pubic symphysis (point A) [Figure 2] and [Figure 2]a. Distance of the IEA was from these midline points were measured by using a sliding vernier calipers [Figure 3]. In certain situations where there was difficulty in using analog vernier calipers with a least count of 0.01 cm, a compass divider was used and then the distance was marked on vernier scale. However, origin of IEA was not traced as the study was confined to appearance of vessel in the anterior abdominal wall and dissection was confined to anterior abdominal wall.
|Figure 1: Anterior abdominal wall showing inferior epigastric vessels after opening rectus sheath. (1) Umbilicus, (2) Pubic symphysis, and (3 ) IEA|
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|Figure 3: Distance of IEA measured with vernier calipers. Note: A thread has been fixed in midline to get accurate measurements|
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The distances were taken on both sides. Range, mean, median, mode, and standard deviation of these readings were calculated and compared.
Most striking observation was variations in the length of IEA. Length of IEA in present study is the length of course of IEA in anterior abdominal wall. As origin of vessels was not dissected, measurements excluded artery length from its point of origin from external iliac artery to the point it appeared in to the rectus sheath. Length of artery differed on both the sides. It was as short as 3.5 cm on left side, while on right side it was 7 cm.
Generally, IEA ended by piercing rectus abdominis at the level of umbilicus, on both the sides. However, in many instances the artery pierced rectus abdominis much earlier. IEA ended before point D in three cases on right side and four on left side by entering the posterior surface of rectus. In 14 cadavers artery did not reach up to umbilicus on both sides.
Pertaining to entry of IEA in to the rectus sheath, there was no uniformity either. Nearest point of entry of IEA in to rectus sheath at the level of pubic symphysis (point A) was 1.2 cm on left side and 3.2 cm on right side. Farthest point from point A was 6.8 cm on right and 6.9 cm on left side.
Distance of IEA from Midline
[Table 1] shows the analysis of the measurements of distance of IEA on right and left sides, respectively.
IEA Distance from Midline [Table 1]
At pubic symphysis
Artery entered the anterior abdominal wall at a point nearer on left side (1.2 cm) than on right side. However, wide range has been seen. Mode was 4.7 suggesting that this was most happening event. This means that in most of the cases, the artery is likely to be located in this zone. While on right it was beyond 1.2 cm.
IEA at Remaining Levels
As we analyze the distance of IEA from midline at remaining levels, it was evident that left IEA was at a closer distance from midline which is a significant information. IEA in our study was relatively nearer to midline, point to be noted with reference to Indian population.
Strip of abdominal wall which was likely to have IEA beneath was up to 4 cm till level C and beyond which it widened up to 5cm on left side. Similarly on right side, width was similar till level C and beyond this it was more than 6cm at umbilicus (level E) [Figure 4].
|Figure 4: Diagrammatic representation of IEA zone in anterior abdominal wall|
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| ¤ Discussion|| |
Most of the studies done earlier to map course of IEA were indirect. Either it was done by transillumination, which had certain limitation depending upon skin color or by imaging studies like CT scan. Only few studies are done by actual dissection method. In the present study, 50 cadavers were used for dissection. Incidentally, five were of female gender.
Length of IEA
The study revealed significant variations in the length of the artery in during its course in the anterior abdominal wall. It was as short as 3.5 cm on left side, while measured double its length on right side. This suggests a wide range of chances of IEA getting injured during trocar insertion.
Termination of IEA
Normally, IEA ends its course in rectus sheath by piercing rectus abdominis muscle on its posterior surface at the level of umbilicus. However, present study also showed variation in its course. As many as in 14 cadavers (28%), IEA did not reach umbilical level, but ended much earlier. Absence of arterial course beyond level D can serve as a guide for safe trocar insertion, if the vessel is mapped preoperatively.
Entry of IEA into Rectus Sheath
No uniformity in entry of IEA into the rectus sheath was observed. There was a notable variation in the distance from pubic symphysis (point A). Nearest point of entry was 1.2 cm on left side and 3.2 cm on right side. Farthest point from point A was 6.9 cm on left and 6.8 cm on right side. This wide range of emergence of artery marks strip on the anterior abdominal wall stretching on either side of linea alba with its course underneath.
Most of the earlier studies in the literature have observed the details of IEA as observed above in the present study.
Epstein et al.,  in a study of IEA by dissection of cadavers with reference to umbilicus and anterior superior iliac spine reported about midline avascularity and variability in branching pattern of IEA. Present study did reveal markable variations in length and termination of IEA.
Authors findings concured with the report of Saber et al.,  where in similar "safe zone" was observed. However, this arterial strip was not equidistant from midline. It was interesting to note that arterial strip had moved more medially on left side. The strip of safety zone was less than 4 cm from midline. Medial limit of this safety zone found to be lesser than 2 cm on left side as compared with right side. However the lateral limit of the zone was within 7.5 cm as noted by the measurements. Additional variation that was seen in present study was strip of abdominal wall likely to have IEA beneath was up to 4 cm till level C and beyond which it widened up to 5cm on left side. Similarly on right side, the width was similar till level C and beyond this it was more than 6cm at umbilicus (level E). This implies that IEA is more notorious its course and staying away from this area will determine the safe zone of entry of the anterior abdominal wall. These variations indicate that a preoperative mapping of IEA may be of immense help in avoiding injury to anterior abdominal vessels during advanced laparoscopic surgery [Figure 4].
| ¤ Conclusion|| |
Laprascopic surgeries form an integral part of minimal access surgeries and portals done through anterior abdominal wall are an essential gateways for approach to abdominal contents. IEA is always at risk to be injured as putting trocar after creating pneumoperitoneum is relatively blind. Present study reestablishes the variations and notorious course of IEA. Hence, It should always be kept in mind that preoperative IEA mapping is immensely helpful in reducing injuries to IEA and this should be a preoperative evaluation protocol.
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[Figure 1], [Figure 2], [Figure 3], [Figure 4]