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

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

Superior Thyroid Artery

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

Peer Review Status: Internally Peer Reviewed

This artery is generally considered to be always present , 100% (its absence however, has been reported once).

The superior thyroid has been reported to give rise to a sizable branch that descends anterior to the clavicle and supplies the pectoralis major muscle.

An unusually large superior thyroid may replace the contralateral vessel or the inferior thyroid artery on the same side. It can be so small that it is represented only by muscular branches or by the superior laryngeal artery.

It was reported to arise from the common carotid in 18% of cases, the point of division of the common carotid in 36%, or from the external carotid in 36% of cases (Faller and Scharrer).

It may also arise from the subclavian or the common carotid (Quain, 14% [41/292]; Livini, 9%; Poynter, 7% of cases), or share a common origin with the facial and with the lingual and facial.

It is occasionally doubled (Quain, 1% [3/292]).

The superior laryngeal branch sometimes arises from a common trunk with the lingual (Livini, 1.5%), facial, or external or even the common carotid.

The superior laryngeal may traverse the thyroid cartilage through an unusual foramen.

The cricothyroid branch may arise from the inferior thyroid or the thyroid branch of the superior thyroid artery.

In some cases, enlarged right and left cricothyroid arteries anastomose in the midline and give rise to a median descending vessel that supplies the middle lobe of the thyroid gland, if present.

Macalister reported finding the superior laryngeal and the hyoidean branches of that vessel (superior thyroid) arose by a common special trunk from the external carotid on the same level as the origin of the common trunk for lingual and facial vessels on the other side.

Yamasaki reported finding four cases (1 in an adult and 3 in fetuses) of the thymic artery arising from the superior thyroid artery in 77 adult cadavers and 45 fetuses. These arteries were distinguished from anterior and posterior rami because they reached the thymus directly, and in most cases, they had a sternomastoid branch. Hence the superior thyroid artery may supply both the thyroid gland and the thymus. This branch may disappear in an early stage of development - it may also persist. Yamaski states that the proximal portion of this thymic artery may remain as the stem of the sternomastoid branch or as a lateral branch of the superior thyroid artery. The author suggests that the branch in question be called the "supreme thymic artery" (A. thymica suprema), becuase of its location and anatomical significance.

Image 104, Image 113, Image 531


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