What is the Antecubital Fossa?

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  • Written By: Maggie Worth
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 14 November 2018
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The antecubital fossa is a small cavity in the elbow joint. This triangular opening is important to lab technicians because three main veins run through it. All are viable sources for blood samples and are easily accessible through the skin of the inner elbow, which is why many blood draws are performed at this site. The median nerve, which senses stimuli all along the arm, and the brachial artery, which carries blood into the arm and hand, also pass through this area. So does a tendon of the biceps, which helps the biceps muscles expand and contract.

Medical professionals depend on this small, but important, part of the body not only as a primary site for drawing blood, but also as one of the most accessible and dependable sites at which to measure blood pressure. A healthcare professional can use a stethoscope placed over the inner elbow to hear the blood flow through the brachial artery. Used in conjunction with a blood pressure cuff placed on the upper arm, this offers an accurate reading. This site may also be used for taking a patient's pulse and for inserting an IV.


Physicians and orthopedists treating patients who have injuries to bones, ligaments, or tendons in the arm or elbow will check for damage to the anatomy of the antecubital fossa. An injury that affects this cavity can cause pain, sensitivity, and tingling in the forearm and hand because of the presence of the median nerve. Elbow injuries can also cause swelling in the hand due to damage to any of the three veins or lack of blood flow due to damage to the brachial artery. Common injuries and conditions affecting this space include fractures to the ulna, radius or humerus and dislocation of the elbow. Regular participation in certain sports may lead to elbow troubles, hence conditions such as "tennis elbow" and "golfer's elbow."

Unfortunately, the easy access to nerves and arteries that makes taking blood and measuring blood pressure so handy also offers an easy site for illicit drug use. Injecting a drug directly into a major blood vessel may cause it to take effect more quickly, producing a faster "high." This extremely dangerous practice can lead to deterioration of the blood vessels as well as sudden death. Habitual users are often identifiable by the presence of "track" or needle marks on the inner elbow.


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Post 3

My husband loves playing golf, He and his business partners play at least once a month, depending on the weather. He has never taken formal lessons, so his swing must have been a little off, because he developed a bad case of golfer's elbow.

The entire inside of his right elbow was red and swollen. He also was complaining of pain, so he went to go see the doctor. They gave him some pain medication, and told him to lay off the course for about six weeks so his elbow could heal.

Hopefully, after going through all this, he swallows his pride and takes some lessons on how to properly swing his club. I would hate for him to re injure himself.

Post 2

@Testy - I understand where you are coming from. I too have small veins. Like you, it was a hassle giving blood.

Drinking more water and eating healthy may help pump up your veins. My doctor encouraged me to do so, and it has helped a little. Not only do I feel better on the inside, but I have noticed that the lab technicians have an easier time locating my veins.

At the very least, you should try to drink a lot of water right before you give blood. The results will not be drastic, but it may help your veins become easier to find. Getting poked with a needle more than once is not fun!

Hope this helps!

Post 1

I always wondered what the medical term for this region of the body was. My mother always referred to it at the "arm pit". Thanks for writing this article, I am glad I learned something.

I have always had small veins in this region and throughout my whole body in general. Whenever I get a blood test, which is at least twice a year, it does not surprise me if the lab technician has to poke me more than once to find a vein.

One time while getting tested, the lab technician gave up on my arm, and drew blood from my hand instead. That was an interesting experience.

I usually do not mind the fact that

I have small veins, but it did kind of bother me when I was trying to give blood to the Red Cross. The person who was drawing blood from the volunteers actually turned me away because she was having a hard time finding a vein to poke me in. I just think she was not looking hard enough.

Again, thanks for the article.

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