The external carotid artery begins at the upper border of thyroid cartilage, and curves, passing forward and upward, and then inclining backward to the space behind the neck of the mandible, where it divides into the superficial temporal and maxillary artery within the parotid gland.
It rapidly diminishes in size as it travels up the neck, owing to the number and large size of its branches.
At its origin, this artery is closer to the skin and more medial than the internal carotid, and is situated within the carotid triangle:
- The external carotid artery is covered by the skin, superficial fascia, Platysma, deep fascia, and anterior margin of the Sternocleidomastoideus; it is crossed by the hypoglossal nerve, by the lingual, ranine, common facial, and superior thyroid veins; and by the Digastricus and Stylohyoideus; higher up it passes deeply into the substance of the parotid gland, where it lies deep to the facial nerve and the junction of the temporal and internal maxillary veins.
- Medial to it are the hyoid bone, the wall of the pharynx, the superior laryngeal nerve, and a portion of the parotid gland.
- Lateral to it, in the lower part of its course, is the internal carotid artery.
- Posterior to it, near its origin, is the superior laryngeal nerve; and higher up, it is separated from the internal carotid by the Styloglossus and Stylopharyngeus, the glossopharyngeal nerve, the pharyngeal branch of the vagus, and part of the parotid gland .
As the artery travels upwards, it supplies:
This definition incorporates text from the wikipedia website - Wikipedia: The free encyclopedia. (2004, July 22). FL: Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. Retrieved August 10, 2004, from http://www.wikipedia.org
- In the carotid triangle:
- Superior thyroid artery, arising from its anterior aspect
- Ascending pharyngeal artery - arising from medial, or deep, aspect
- Lingual artery - arising from its anterior aspect
- Facial artery - arise from its anterior aspect
- Occipital artery - arising from its posterior aspect
- Posterior auricular artery - arising from posterior aspect
- The external carotid artery terminates as two branches:
- Maxillary artery
- Superficial temporal artery