The pharyngeal artery arises from the back part of the external carotid, near the commencement of that vessel, and ascends vertically between the internal carotid and the side of the pharynx, to the under surface of the base of the skull, lying on the longus capitis.
The artery most typically bifurcates into embryologically distinct pharyngeal and neuromeningeal trunks (including posterior meningeal artery and inferior tympanic artery):
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- The pharyngeal trunk usually consists of several pharyngeal branches which supply the middle and inferior pharyngeal constrictor muscles and the stylopharyngeus, ramifying in their substance and in the mucous membranes lining them. These branches are in hemodynamic equilibrium with contributors from the internal maxillary artery.
- The neuromeningeal trunk classically consists of jugular and hypoglossal divisions, which enter the jugular and hypoglossal foramina to supply regional meningeal and neural structures, being in equilibrium with branches of the vertebral, occipital, posterior meningeal, middle meningeal, and internal carotid arteries (via its caroticotympanic branch, meningohypophyseal, and inferolateral trunks). Also present is the inferior tympanic branch, which ascends towards the middle ear cavity; it is involved in internal carotid artery reconstitution via the "aberrant carotid artery" variant. The muscular branch of the ascending pharyngeal artery is in equilibrium with the odontoid arcade from the vertebral artery.