Blood Vessels

Blood Vessels of the Head and Neck

The carotid and vertebral arteries supply blood to the head and neck.

Arteries supplying blood to the head and neck arise from the aortic arch, or the bending portion of the aorta. The right common carotid and right subclavian arteries arise where the brachiocephalic trunk divides. The common carotids move alongside the trachea up the neck. Vertebral arteries arise from subclavian arteries and pass through transverse foramina of cervical vertebrae to enter the cranial cavity at the foramen magnum. Smaller arteries arise laterally from subclavian arteries. Thyrocervical trunks perfuse the thyroid gland and scapular muscles; costcocervical trunks supply deep neck and intercostal muscles.

Each common carotid artery branches into external and internal carotids near the laryngeal prominence (Adam's apple). Six arteries arise from the external carotid as it ascends outside the cranium. The superior thyroid artery supplies the thyroid gland and larynx; the lingual artery supplies the tongue. The facial artery connects to facial skin and muscles; the occipital artery supplies the posterior scalp. The maxillary artery supplies the maxilla, buccal cavity, teeth, and external ear. Finally, the superficial temporal artery supplies the nasal cavity, chewing muscles, side of the face, scalp, and dura mater, the membrane enveloping the brain. The internal carotid artery enters the cranial cavity through the temporal bone. Internal carotids branch into three arteries. The ophthalmic artery supplies the orbits—or cavities where the eyes are located—forehead, and nose. The anterior cerebral artery supplies the cerebral hemisphere, and the middle cerebral artery supplies temporal lobes found near the temple on the side of the head and parietal lobes found at the top of the head.

Arteries of the Head and Neck

Arteries that supply blood to the head and neck include the subclavian and carotid arteries. These produce other branches that supply all head and neck structures.
The brain's critical blood supply is provided by the arterial circle, an arrangement of anterior and posterior cerebral and communicating arteries. Blood is received from the internal carotid artery and the basilar artery, which arises from the vertebral arteries.

Most head and neck blood drains through three vein pairs on each side of the neck that empty into the subclavian vein. The internal jugular moves alongside the internal carotid artery and receives blood from the brain. The external jugular drains facial muscles, scalp, and other structures such as the parotid gland. The vertebral vein moves along the vertebral artery and drains the spinal cord, cervical vertebrae, and some neck muscles. The dural venous sinuses are several veins within the cranial cavity that empty blood from the brain and face into the internal jugular veins.

Once blood drains into the subclavian vein at the shoulder, that vein merges with the internal jugulars to form the brachiocephalic vein. Right and left brachiocephalics then unite to form the superior vena cava, which empties into the right atrium.

Veins of the Head and Neck

Blood in the head and neck drains primarily through three jugular veins (external, interior, and internal) that empty into the subclavian vein. Veins drain muscles, scalp, spinal cord, and other head and neck structures.