External carotid artery

The external carotid artery (Latin: arteria carotis externa) arises from the bifurcation of the common carotid artery when it divides into two vessels - the external and internal carotid arteries. The external carotid artery is one of the major arteries in the head and neck region.

Course

The external carotid artery arises from the common carotid artery at the level of the superior border of the thyroid cartilage of the larynx. On each side, the artery originates in the carotid triangle, lying anteromedial to the internal carotid artery. The external carotid artery ascends from the lateral upper border of the thyroid cartilage anteriorly on each side of the neck and then bends posteriorly and a little laterally. Then it passes between the tip of the mastoid process (of the temporal bone) and the angle of the mandible. Further, the artery enters the parotid gland where it ends by dividing into two terminal branches.

Branches

As it ascends, the external carotid artery gives off several side branches that can be subdivided into three groups - the anterior, posterior, and medial branches. The artery ends by dividing into two terminal branches: superficial temporal artery and the maxillary artery.

The anterior side branches of the external carotid artery include the following: lingual artery, facial artery, superior thyroid artery. There are two posterior branches: occipital artery and posterior auricular artery. The external carotid artery typically has only one medial branch, which is the ascending pharyngeal artery.

The mentioned side branches of the external carotid artery anastomose with other blood vessels. They include branches of the subclavian artery in the thyroid gland, larynx, pharynx, as well as branches of the internal carotid artery in the nasopharynx, nasal cavity, orbit, on the face, forehead, and scalp.

Supply

The external carotid artery provides arterial blood supply to many areas in the head and neck region, including the face, scalp, tongue, upper and lower teeth, gums, paranasal sinuses, external ear and middle ear, pharynx, larynx, and the superior pole of the thyroid gland.