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

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

Occipital Artery

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

Peer Review Status: Internally Peer Reviewed

The occipital may be a branch of the internal carotid, thyrocervical trunk, inferior thyroid, or its ascending cervical branch. The posterior auricular (Livini,12%), ascending pharyngeal, or stylomastoid may be branches of the occipital.

It sometimes arises in common with the ascending pharyngeal (Quain, 13%, Livini 16%), or is continuous with a vertebral artery through a large anastomosis.

A major portion of the occipital artery may pass over the sternocleidomastoid muscle, with only a small artery being located in its usual position. The artery may also turn backwards below the transverse process of the atlas.

A posterior meningeal branch may arise from the occipital artery, ascending on the internal juglar vein, and passing through the jugular foramen to ramify in the dura mater of the posterior fossa of the base of the skull. A parietal branch may arise from one of the terminal branches of the occipital artery and enters the skull by the parietal foramen and is distributed to the surrounding dura mater.

The occipital may also provide a stylomastoid branch (usually a branch of the posterior auricular artery), a long slender branch that enters the stylomastoid foramen in the temporal bone to supply mastoid air cells posteriorly and the stapedius muscle and the tympanum anteriorly. One of these two latter arteries, along with the tympanic branch of the maxillary artery, may form a vascular ring around the margin of the tympanum, and by minute branches supplies the tympanic membrane.


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.

Gruber, W. (1880) Dupliciät der Arteria occipitalis. Arch. Path. Anat. Physiol. Klin. Med. 82:474-475.

Henle, J. (1868) Handbuch der Systematischen Anatomie des Menschen, Von Freidrich Vieweg und Sohn, Braunschweig.

Latarjet, A. (1948) Testut's Traite d'Anatomie Humaine, 9th ed., G. Doin & Cie., Paris.

Poynter, C.W.M. (1922) Congenital Anomalies of the Arteries and Veins of the Human Body with Bibliography. The University Studies of The University of Nebraska, Lincoln 22:1-106.

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

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