August 11, 2012

Branches of the External Carotid Artery

In human anatomy, the external carotid artery is a major artery of the head and neck. It arises from the common carotid artery when it bifurcates into the external and internal carotid artery.

In this article:
A. Anatomy
B. Memory aid

Anatomy of the external carotid artery

The external carotid artery begins at the level of the upper border of the thyroid cartilage, and, taking a slightly curved course, passes upward and forward, and then inclines 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 in its course up the neck, owing to the number and large size of the branches given off from it. From inferior to superior, the branches of the external carotid artery are:
  • Arising in carotid triangle
    • Superior thyroid artery-(arise from anterior aspect)
    • Ascending pharyngeal artery-(arise from medial (deep) aspect)
    • Lingual artery-(arise from anterior aspect)
    • Facial artery-(arise from anterior aspect)
    • Occipital artery-(arise from posterior aspect)
  • Posterior auricular artery-(arise from posterior aspect)
  • Terminal branches
    • Maxillary artery
    • Superficial temporal artery

Memory aid (Mnemonics)

Two useful mnemonics to aid your memory of these branches are as below:

1). Sally Ann Likes Flirting On Philadelphia's Main Street
  • Sally - Superior Thyroid
  • Ann - Ascending Pharyngeal
  • Likes - Lingual
  • Flirting - Facial
  • On - Occipital
  • Philidelphia's - Posterior auricular
  • Main - Maxillary
  • Street - Superficial temporal
2). Some Arteries Lie On Face PluS Maxilla
  • Some - Superior Thyroid
  • Arteries - Ascending Pharyngeal
  • Lie - Lingual
  • On - Occipital
  • Face - Facial
  • PluS - Posterior auricular, Superficial temporal
  • Maxilla - Maxillary
Note: The Lingual artery and Facial artery may arise from a common trunk. This is a common variation.

1). Human Anatomy - Lab 25 Step 12: Branches of the External Carotid Artery. SUNY Downstate Medical Center. Retrieved 10.08.2012. Available online:
2). Wikipedia. External carotid artery. Retrieved 10.08.2012. Available online:

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