The lingual artery is a branch of the external carotid artery. It is the principal artery supplying the tongue, sublingual gland, gingiva and oral mucosa of the floor of the mouth. Within the tongue, it is located deep to the hyoglossus muscle.
The lingual artery gives off four branches, three of these are given off in the floor of the mouth. These three branches form an extensive anastomotic network that ensures a rich blood supply to the muscles of the tongue and other structures in the floor of the oral cavity.
This article will discuss the anatomy and function of the lingual artery.
|External carotid artery
|Suprahyoid, dorsal lingual, sublingual, deep lingual arteries
|Tongue, sublingual gland, gingiva, and oral mucosa of the floor of the mouth
The lingual artery arises from the anterior surface of the external carotid artery in the neck. It emerges close to the tip of the greater horn/cornu of the hyoid bone, and lies on the middle pharyngeal constrictor muscle. From its origin, the artery arches upwards and anteriorly, giving off its first branch, the suprahyoid artery. The lingual artery then travels deep to the hyoglossus muscle, where it gives off the dorsal lingual arteries.
The artery then continues into the floor of the mouth, passing lateral to the genioglossus muscle. At the anterior border of the hyoglossus muscle, the lingual artery takes an upward turn and bifurcates into the deep lingual and sublingual arteries. Along its path, the lingual artery is accompanied by the lingual veins and the glossopharyngeal nerve (cranial nerve IX).
Branches and supply
The lingual artery has four branches;
- The suprahyoid branch travels along the superior border of the hyoid bone. It anastomoses with its counterpart on the contralateral side to supply the muscles attaching to the hyoid bone.
- The dorsal lingual branches form anastomoses with their contralateral counterparts to supply the base of the tongue and its mucous membrane, as well as the palatoglossal arch, tonsil, soft palate and epiglottis. These branches are normally two to three small vessels that branch off the lingual artery medial to the hyoglossus muscle and pass into the posterior aspect of the tongue.
- The sublingual branch supplies the sublingual gland, mylohyoid muscle and the buccal and gingival mucous membranes. It arises at the anterior border of the hyoglossus muscle and travels between the genioglossus and mylohyoid muscles to reach the sublingual glands.
- The deep lingual branch forms the terminal portion of the lingual artery. It supplies the body of the tongue. The artery is located on the inferior aspect of the tongue close to the lingual frenulum. It passes between the genioglossus medially and the inferior longitudinal muscle laterally to reach the apex of the tongue.
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A number of anatomical variations of the lingual artery have been noted in the literature. These include differences in its origin, branches and its partial or complete absence. As opposed to the external carotid artery, the lingual artery may arise from the common carotid artery together with the facial artery and occasionally the superior thyroid artery as well.
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