External carotid artery

The external carotid artery is a major artery of the head and neck. It arises from the common carotid artery when it splits into the external and internal carotid artery. It supplies blood to the face and neck.[1]

External carotid artery
Blausen 0170 CarotidArteries
The external carotid artery arises from the common carotid artery and supplies structures in the face and neck.
Sourcecommon carotid artery
Branchessuperior thyroid, lingual, facial, ascending pharyngeal, occipital, posterior auricular, maxillary, superficial temporal
Latinarteria carotis externa
Anatomical terminology


The external carotid artery begins at the upper border of thyroid cartilage, and curves, passing forward and upward, and then inclining backward to the space behind the neck of the mandible, where it divides into the superficial temporal and maxillary artery within the parotid gland.

It rapidly diminishes in size as it travels up the neck, owing to the number and large size of its branches.

At its origin, this artery is closer to the skin and more medial than the internal carotid, and is situated within the carotid triangle.


In children, the external carotid artery is somewhat smaller than the internal carotid; but in the adult, the two vessels are of nearly equal size.


The external carotid artery is covered by the skin, superficial fascia, Platysma, deep fascia, and anterior margin of the Sternocleidomastoideus; it is crossed by the hypoglossal nerve, by the lingual, ranine, common facial, and superior thyroid veins; and by the Digastricus and Stylohyoideus; higher up it passes deeply into the substance of the parotid gland, where it lies deep to the facial nerve and the junction of the temporal and internal maxillary veins.

Medial to it are the hyoid bone, the wall of the pharynx, the superior laryngeal nerve, and a portion of the parotid gland.

Lateral to it, in the lower part of its course, is the internal carotid artery.

Posterior to it, near its origin, is the superior laryngeal nerve; and higher up, it is separated from the internal carotid by the Styloglossus and Stylopharyngeus, the glossopharyngeal nerve, the pharyngeal branch of the vagus, and part of the parotid gland.


External carotid artery
Branches of external carotid artery.

As the artery travels upwards, it supplies:

The external carotid artery terminates as two branches:

Several mnemonics are commonly used to remember the main branches of the external carotid artery.

  • Mnemonic — Some Anatomists Like Freaking Out Poor Medical Students .
  • Mnemonic — Sister Lucy's Face Often Powdered Attracts Medical Students .

Additional images

External carotid artery with branches

Branches of external carotid artery


Magnetic Resonance Angiography


  1. ^ "Carotid artery". WebMD. Retrieved 28 July 2015.
  2. ^ Human Anatomy - Lab 25 Step 12

External links

Artery of the pterygoid canal

The artery of the pterygoid canal (Vidian artery) is an artery in the pterygoid canal, in the head.

It usually arises from the external carotid artery, but can arise from either the internal or external carotid artery or serve as an anastomosis between the two.The eponym, Vidian artery, is derived from the Italian surgeon and anatomist Vidus Vidius.

Carotid artery

Carotid artery may refer to:

Common carotid artery, often "carotids" or "carotid", an artery on each side of the neck which divides into the external carotid artery and internal carotid artery

External carotid artery, an artery on each side of the head and neck supplying blood to the face, scalp, skull, neck and meninges

Internal carotid artery, an artery on each side of the head and neck supplying blood to the brain

Carotid artery stenosis

Carotid artery stenosis is a narrowing or constriction of any part of the carotid arteries, usually caused by atherosclerosis.

Carotid endarterectomy

Carotid endarterectomy (CEA) is a surgical procedure performed by vascular surgeons used to reduce the risk of stroke by correcting stenosis (narrowing) in the common carotid artery or internal carotid artery. Endarterectomy is the removal of material on the inside (end(o)-) of an artery.

Atherosclerosis causes plaque to form within the carotid artery walls, usually at the fork where the common carotid artery divides into the internal and external carotid artery. The plaque build up can narrow or constrict the artery lumen, a condition called stenosis. Rupture of the plaque can cause the formation of a blood clot in the artery. A piece of the formed blood clot often breaks off and travels (embolizes) up through the internal carotid artery into the brain, where it blocks circulation, and can cause death of the brain tissue, a condition referred to as ischemic stroke.

Sometimes the stenosis causes temporary symptoms first, known as TIAs, where temporary ischemia occurs in the brain, spinal cord, or retina without causing an infarction. Symptomatic stenosis has a high risk of stroke within the next 2 days. National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) guidelines recommend that patients with moderate to severe (50–99% blockage) stenosis, and symptoms, should have "urgent" endarterectomy within 2 weeks.When the plaque does not cause symptoms, patients are still at higher risk of stroke than the general population, but not as high as patients with symptomatic stenosis. The incidence of stroke, including fatal stroke, is 1–2% per year. The surgical mortality of endarterectomy ranges from 1–2% to as much as 10%. Two large randomized clinical trials have demonstrated that carotid surgery done with a 30-day stroke and death risk of 3% or less will benefit asymptomatic patients with ≥60% stenosis who are expected to live at least 5 years after surgery. Surgeons are divided over whether asymptomatic patients should be treated with medication alone or should have surgery.In endarterectomy, the surgeon opens the artery and removes the plaque. The plaque forms and enlarges in the inner layer of the artery, or endothelium, hence the name of the procedure which simply means removal of the endothelium of the artery. A newer procedure, endovascular angioplasty and stenting, threads a catheter up from the groin, around the aortic arch, and up the carotid artery. The catheter uses a balloon to expand the artery, and inserts a stent to hold the artery open. In several clinical trials, the 30-day incidence of heart attack, stroke, or death was significantly higher with stenting than with endarterectomy (9.6% vs. 3.9%).The Carotid Revascularization Endarterectomy versus Stenting Trial (CREST) funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) reported that the results of stents and endarterectomy were comparable. However, the European International Carotid Stenting Study (ICSS) found that stents had almost double the rate of complications.

Common facial vein

The Facial vein usually unites with the anterior branch of the Retromandibular vein to form the Common Facial Vein, which crosses the external carotid artery and enters the internal jugular vein at a variable point below the hyoid bone.

From near its termination a communicating branch often runs down the anterior border of the Sternocleidomastoideus to join the lower part of the anterior jugular vein.

The common facial vein is not present in all individuals.

Facial artery

The facial artery (external maxillary artery in older texts) is a branch of the external carotid artery that supplies structures of the superficial face.

Jaw claudication

Jaw claudication is pain in the jaw associated with chewing. It is a classic symptom of Giant-cell arteritis, but can be confused with symptoms of Temporomandibular joint disease, Rheumatoid arthritis of the temporomandibular joint, Myasthenia gravis, tumors of the Parotid gland, or occlusion or stenosis of the External carotid artery. The term is derived by analogy from claudication of the leg, where pain is caused by arterial insufficiency.

Lingual tonsils

The lingual tonsils are two small mounds of lymphatic tissue located at the back of the base of the tongue, one on either side. They are composed of lymphatic tissue that functions to assist the immune system in the production of antibodies in response to invading pathogenic bacteria or viruses.

List of arteries of the human body

This is a list of arteries of the human body.

The aorta

The arteries of the head and neck

The common carotid artery

The external carotid artery

The triangles of the neck

The internal carotid artery

The arteries of the brain

The arteries of the upper extremity

The subclavian artery

The axilla

The axillary artery

The brachial artery

The radial artery

The ulnar artery

The arteries of the trunk

The descending aorta

The thoracic aorta

The abdominal aorta

The common iliac arteries

The hypogastric artery

The external iliac artery

The arteries of the lower extremity

The femoral artery

The popliteal fossa

The popliteal artery

The anterior tibial artery

The arteria dorsalis pedis

The posterior tibial artery

Maxillary artery

The maxillary artery supplies deep structures of the face. It branches from the external carotid artery just deep to the neck of the mandible.

Middle meningeal artery

The middle meningeal artery (Latin: arteria meningea media) is typically the third branch of the first part (retromandibular part) of the maxillary artery, one of the two terminal branches of the external carotid artery. After branching off the maxillary artery in the infratemporal fossa, it runs through the foramen spinosum to supply the dura mater (the outermost meninges) and the calvaria. The middle meningeal artery is the largest of the three (paired) arteries that supply the meninges, the others being the anterior meningeal artery and the posterior meningeal artery.

The anterior branch of the middle meningeal artery runs beneath the pterion. It is vulnerable to injury at this point, where the skull is thin. Rupture of the artery may give rise to an epidural hematoma. In the dry cranium, the middle meningeal, which runs within the dura mater surrounding the brain, makes a deep indention in the calvarium.

The middle meningeal artery is intimately associated with the auriculotemporal nerve, which wraps around the artery making the two easily identifiable in the dissection of human cadavers and also easily damaged in surgery.

Neck guard

A neck guard is a piece of protective equipment worn by an ice hockey player around the neck area. The guard is designed to prevent injury to the neck by pucks, hockey sticks, and skate blades.

This piece is critical to goaltenders, who are more likely at risk to be injured in this area. Goalie Clint Malarchuk suffered a severe injury during a game in 1989 when two players collided in front of his goal and one player's skate caught on his neck, slicing open his internal jugular vein. Marlarchuk made a full recovery, but would have almost certainly died were immediate medical attention not available. Ever since then, many National Hockey League (NHL) goaltenders have worn neck guards, such as Henrik Lundqvist, Marc-André Fleury, and Semyon Varlamov. However, it isn't required for NHL goaltenders to wear them.

On February 10, 2008, Florida Panthers forward Richard Zedník was behind the play and skating into the right corner of the Buffalo Sabres' zone, when teammate Olli Jokinen lost his balance after being checked by Clarke MacArthur. Jokinen fell head-first to the ice, his right leg flew up and struck Zedník directly on the side of the neck, hitting Zedník's external carotid artery. Clutching his neck, Zedník raced to the Florida bench, leaving a long trail of blood along the way, and nearly falling into the arms of a team trainer. He fully recovered from the injury.

Most neck guards, such as those manufactured by Bauer, contain fabric that is BNQ (Bureau de Normalisation du Quebec)-certified. Most neck guards have a moisture system which helps keep the guard cool, ensuring the player's neck won't get too hot while working.

Occipital artery

The occipital artery arises from the external carotid artery opposite the facial artery. Its path is below the posterior belly of digastric to the occipital region. This artery supplies blood to the back of the scalp and sterno-mastoid muscles, and deep muscles in the back and neck.

Posterior auricular artery

The posterior auricular artery is a small artery that arises from the external carotid artery, above the digastric muscle and stylohyoid muscle, opposite the apex of the styloid process.

It ascends posteriorly beneath the parotid gland, along the styloid process of the temporal bone, between the cartilage of the ear and the mastoid process of the temporal bone along the lateral side of the head. The posterior auricular artery gives off the stylomastoid artery, small branches to the auricle, and supplies blood to the scalp posterior to the auricle.

Retromandibular vein

The retromandibular vein (temporomaxillary vein, posterior facial vein), formed by the union of the superficial temporal and maxillary veins, descends in the substance of the parotid gland, superficial to the external carotid artery but beneath the facial nerve, between the ramus of the mandible and the sternocleidomastoideus muscle.

It divides into two branches:

an anterior, which passes forward and joins anterior facial vein, to form the common facial vein, which then drains into the internal jugular vein.

a posterior, which is joined by the posterior auricular vein and becomes the external jugular vein.Parrot's sign is a sensation of pain when pressure is applied to the retromandibular region.

Stapedial branch of posterior auricular artery

In human anatomy, the stapedial branch of posterior auricular artery, or stapedial artery for short, is a small artery supplying the stapedius muscle in the inner ear.

Superficial temporal artery

In human anatomy, the superficial temporal artery is a major artery of the head. It arises from the external carotid artery when it splits into the superficial temporal artery and maxillary artery.

Its pulse can be felt above the zygomatic arch, above and in front of the tragus of the ear.

Superior thyroid artery

The superior thyroid artery arises from the external carotid artery just below the level of the greater cornu of the hyoid bone and ends in the thyroid gland.

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