Anatomy Atlases(tm) : A digital library of anatomy information

Home | About | FAQ | Reviews | Search

Anatomy Atlases: Illustrated Encyclopedia of Human Anatomic Variation: Opus II: Cardiovascular System: Arteries: Head, Neck, and Thorax: External Carotid Artery

Illustrated Encyclopedia of Human Anatomic Variation: Opus II: Cardiovascular System: Arteries: Head, Neck, and Thorax

External Carotid Artery

Ronald A. Bergman, PhD
Adel K. Afifi, MD, MS
Ryosuke Miyauchi, MD

Peer Review Status: Internally Peer Reviewed

Variations in the origin of this artery are discussed under Common Carotids.

It may be absent unilaterally or bilaterally. When unilaterally absent, the branches usually derived from it arise from the upward continuation of the common trunk or from the contralateral vessel. The artery is sometimes located superficially, and runs lateral to the stylohyoid muscle or between the posterior belly of the digastric muscle and the stylohyoid.

The branches of the external carotid may arise irregularly or be diminished or increased in number. When increased in number (by two or more), they arise as a common stem or by the addition of branches not usually derived from this artery, such as a sternomastoid branch of either the superior thyroid or occipital artery. On occasion, all the branches arise close together from a common point just above the origin of the artery from the common carotid.

The external carotid may provide an accessory superior thyroid, a dorsal lingual, an accessory ascending pharyngeal.

A curious variation is an external carotid composed of two separate trunks that unite behind the condylar process of the mandible forming an anulus, from which the various branches arise.

Variations in some of the branches of the external carotid are as follows: The ascending pharyngeal may arise from the external carotid or the bifurcation of the common carotid (65-80%), the occipital (14-20%), or the common carotid (7-9%). The lingual arises from a common trunk with the facial (linguofacial trunk) in 10-20% of cases; a rare combination branch of the external carotid is a thyrolinguofacial trunk. The sternocleidomastoid, usually a branch of the superior thyroid, may arise as an independent branch of the external carotid.

Image 112, Image 288, Image 437


Adachi, B. (1928) Das Arteriensystem der Japaner. Kenkyusha Press, Kyoto.

Anson, B.J., Ed. (1966) Morris' Human Anatomy, 12th ed. The Blakiston Division, McGraw-Hill Book Company, New York.

Bergman, R.A., Thompson, S.A., Afifi, A.K. and F.A. Saadeh. (1988) Compendium of Human Anatomic Variation: Catalog, Atlas and World Literature., Urban & Schwarzenberg, Baltimore and Munich.

Czerwinski, F. (1981) Variability of the course of external carotid artery and its rami in man in the light of anatomical and radiological studies. Folia Morphol., Warsaw 40:449-453

Descomps, -. et -. Vinçotte. (1910) Anomalie de trajet et de ramescence de la carotide externe. Bull. et Mém. de la Soc. Anatomique de Paris 12:749-750.

Faller, A. (1946) Zur Kenntnis der Gefässverhältnisse der Carotisteilungsstalle. Schweiz. Med. Wochenschrift 76:1156-1158.

Giovanardi, -. (1880) Alcune anomalie arteriose della carotide. Spallanzani 9:130-131.

Gruber, W. (1876) Ein Fall des Verlaufes der Art. carotis externa zwischen dem Musc. digastricus und Musc. stylohyoideus. Arch. Pathol. Anat. Physiol. Klin. Med. 66:464.

Joessel, -. (1878) Neue Anomalien der Carotis externa und der Maxillaris interna. Arch. Anat. Physiol. 1878:443-437.

Livini, F. (1902) Il tipo normale e le variazioni dell'a. carotis externa. Sperimentale 5:473-486.

Livini, F. (1903) Le type normal et les variations de l'A. carotis externa. Arch. Ital. Biol. 39:487.

Nizankowski, C. (1972) Seltener Fall eines gemeinsamen Stammes der Schilddrüsenzungengesichtsschlagader beim Menschen (Truncus thyrolinguofacialis). Anat. Anz. 132:530-534

Orr, A.E. (1907) A rare anomaly of the carotid arteries (internal and external). J. Anat. Physiol. 41:51.

Ozenne, -. (1883) 12. Anomalie d'origine de la carotide droite et de l'artere sous-clavière du même côté. Le Progrès Médical 11:734.

Pisk, W. (1914) über eine seltene Varietät im Verlaufe der Arteria carotis externa beim Menschen und beim Hunde. Anat. Anz. 45:373-378.

Poynter, C.W.M. (1916) Arterial anomalies pertaining to the aortic arches and the branches arising from them. The University Studies of the University of Nebraska, Lincoln 16:299-345.

Poynter, C.W.M. (1922) Congenital anaomalies of the arteries and veins of the human body with bibliography. The University Studies of the University of Nebraska, Lincoln 22:1-106.

Schaefer, E. A., Symington, J. and T.H. Bryce, Eds. (1915) Quain's Anatomy, 11th ed. Longman's, Green, and Company, London.

Singer, R. (1949) A variation of the external carotic artery. South African Med J. 23:839.

Turner, W. (1879) A loop-like bifurcation of the external carotid artery. J. Anat. Physiol. 13:399.

Winslow, R. (1883) A study of the malformations, variations, and anomalies of the circulatory apparatus in man. Annals of Anatomy and Surgery 7:13.

Wurtz, K.G. and N.B. Powell (1948) Two unusual vascular and cardiac anomalies. I Vascular ring of the esophagus with patent ductus arteriosus. Origin of the left subclavian and carotid arteries. II Persistent artrioventricular communis and aortic dextroposition with mongolism. J. Pediatr. 33:722-733.

Wyeth, J.A. (1878) Essay upon the surgical anatomy and history of the common, external and internal carotid arteries. Trans. Am. Med. Assoc. 29:1-139.

Zagorsky, P. (1809) Observationum anatomicarum quadrigae de singulari arterium aberratione. Mems. de l'Acad. Imperiale des Sciences de St. Petersbourg 1:385-386.

Section Top | Title Page

Home | About Us | FAQ | Reviews | Contact Us | Search

Anatomy Atlases is curated by Michael P. D'Alessandro, M.D. and Ronald A. Bergman, Ph.D.

Please send us comments by filling out our Comment Form.

All contents copyright © 1995-2018 the Author(s) and Michael P. D'Alessandro, M.D. All rights reserved.

"Anatomy Atlases", the Anatomy Atlases logo, and "A digital library of anatomy information" are all Trademarks of Michael P. D'Alessandro, M.D.

Anatomy Atlases is funded in whole by Michael P. D'Alessandro, M.D. Advertising is not accepted.

Your personal information remains confidential and is not sold, leased, or given to any third party be they reliable or not.

The information contained in Anatomy Atlases is not a substitute for the medical care and advice of your physician. There may be variations in treatment that your physician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.