The common carotid artery, which arises from the brachiocephalic artery on the right side and directly from the aortic arch on the left side, bifurcates at approximately the level of the fourth cervical vertebral body (C 4) giving rise to the internal carotid artery and the external carotid artery.
The internal carotid artery does not give off any branches while it is in the neck region, but instead it ascends cranially and enters the cranial cavity through the base of the skull where it gives off branches to supply the organs of the head. In contrast, the external carotid artery gives off numerous branches while in the cervical region that supply the anterior structures of the neck, the cervical viscera and the external structures of the head and the face.
One of the branches that arises directly from the external carotid artery is a long slender vessel called the ascending pharyngeal artery. It is the smallest branch of the external carotid artery.
The ascending pharyngeal artery commonly arises from posterior aspect of the external carotid artery that ascends cranially along the pharynx on both sides. Along its course, this artery gives off branches to the pharynx, the prevertebral muscles and to the cranial meninges. The ascending pharyngeal artery also forms anastomoses with the anterior cerebral circulation and the posterior cerebral circulation. It terminates at the base of the skull.
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