External carotid artery

  • The external carotid artery (latin: arteria carotis externa) arises from the common carotid artery at the level of the superior border of the thyroid cartilage of the larynx. The external carotid artery is one of the major arteries that supply the head, specifically, the face, scalp, tongue, upper and lower teeth, gums, paranasal sinuses, external and middle ear, pharynx, larynx, and the superior pole of the thyroid gland.

    The external carotid artery on each side arises in the carotid triangle, lying anteromedial to the internal carotid artery. It 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 the external carotid artery passes between the tip of the mastoid process and the angle of the mandible and enters the parotid salivary gland where it divides into its terminal branches: the superficial temporal and maxillary arteries.

    As it ascends, the external carotid artery gives off the following branches.

    • Anterior branches: lingual, facial, superior thyroid arteries.
    • Posterior branches: occipital, posterior auricular arteries.
    • Medial branch: ascending pharyngeal artery.

    These arteries also form anastomoses with branches of the subclavian artery in the thyroid glands, larynx, pharynx, and with branches of the internal carotid arteries in the nasopharynx and nasal cavity, in the orbit, on the face, forehead, and scalp.