The external carotid artery (Latin: arteria carotis externa) arises from the bifurcation of the common carotid artery when it divides into the external and internal carotid arteries. It is one of the major arteries in the head and neck region.
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 and the angle of the mandible and enters the parotid gland where it divides into two terminal 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.
The anterior branches include:
The posterior branches of the external carotid artery include:
The external carotid artery has one medial branch, which is the ascending pharyngeal artery.
These side branches of the external carotid artery anastomose with other blood vessels, including the branches of the subclavian artery in the thyroid glands, larynx, pharynx, branches of the internal carotid arteries in the nasopharynx, nasal cavity, orbit, on the face, forehead, and scalp.
The external carotid artery supplies 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.