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Maxillary artery

The maxillary artery is one of two terminal branches of the external carotid artery, along with the superficial temporal artery

The maxillary artery originates deep to the neck of the mandible. On its course, the maxillary artery provides a number of branches that supply many structures within the head and face. In relation to the lateral pterygoid muscle, the artery can be divided into three distinct segments (mandibular, pterygoid, pterygopalatine parts). 

The main function of the maxillary artery is to supply blood to the maxilla and mandible, deep facial areas, cerebral dura mater and nasal cavity. Hence it is considered a blood vessel which supports both hard and soft tissues in the maxillofacial region.

This article will discus the anatomy and course of the maxillary artery.

Key facts about the maxillary artery
Source External carotid artery
Branches Deep auricular artery
Anterior tympanic artery
Middle meningeal artery
Inferior alveolar artery
Accessory meningeal artery
Masseteric artery
Pterygoid artery
Deep temporal artery
Buccinator artery
Sphenopalatine artery
Descending palatine artery
Infraorbital artery
Posterior superior alveoar artery
Middle superior alveolar artery
Pharyngeal artery
Anterior superior alveolar artery
Artery of the pterygoid canal

MNEMONIC:  DAM I AM Piss Drunk But Stupid Drunk I Prefer, Must Phone Alcoholics Anonymous
Supplies Hard and soft tissues of the maxilofacial region (maxilla, mandible, deep fascial areas, cerebral dura mater, nasal cavity)
Contents
  1. Overview
  2. Course
  3. Maxillary artery branches
    1. Branches of the first (mandibular) division
    2. Branches from the 2nd (pterygoid) segment
    3. Branches from the 3rd (pterygopalatine) segment
  4. Maxillary artery branches mnenonic
  5. Extradural hematoma
  6. Sources
+ Show all

Overview

The main trunk of the maxillary artery is divided into three parts, which are named according to related structures along the artery’s course (path of travel). These three parts are:

  1. The mandibular division (1st part) – named as such because it winds around deep to the neck of the mandible.
  2. The pterygoid division (2nd part) – it has this name because it travels between the two heads of the lateral pterygoid muscle.
  3. The pterygopalatine division (3rd part) – this part derived its name from the pterygopalatine fossa, into which it enters.

Conventionally, these three parts are described as the part before-, part on-, and part beyond the lateral pterygoid muscle. This is also useful since out of the 15 branches of the maxillary artery, the 5 branches from the second part (part on the lateral pterygoid muscle) are regarded as branches to soft tissues and they do not course through foramina in bones. However, the remaining 10 branches, from the first and third parts, go through foramina in bones.

Course

The maxillary artery continues as one of the terminal divisions of the external carotid artery at the level of the neck of the mandible and passes forwards between the neck of the mandible and the sphenomandibular ligament. It continues its path by running deeply to the lower head and passes forward between the two heads of the lateral pterygoid muscle to break into its terminal branches at the pterygopalatine fossa.

If you want a more visual learning method, take a look at the videos, illustrations and quizzes included in the following study unit:

Maxillary artery branches

Branches of the first (mandibular) division

The deep auricular artery is the first branch of the mandibular part. This branch runs upwards to enter the ear and courses superficially to the tympanic membrane, passing between the cartilage and bone. It supplies the external acoustic meatus of the ear and the deep surface of the tympanic membrane.

The anterior tympanic artery is the second branch that courses near the tympanic membrane. It passes deep to the membrane, through the petrotympanic fissure to the middle ear to join the circular anastomosis around the tympanic membrane.

The middle meningeal artery passes straight upwards through the foramen spinosum to join the two roots of the auriculotemporal nerve. It supplies bones of the skull (calvaria) and the dura mater.

The inferior alveolar artery - runs inferiorly and anteriorly towards the inferior alveolar nerve, to meet the nerve at the mandibular foramen. The artery runs further anteriorly in the mandible, supplying the pulps of the mandibular teeth (with its dental branches) and the body of the mandible. Its other branch, the mental branch, emerges from the mental foramen and supplies the lower lip and skin of the chin. 

The accessory meningeal artery is the main source of blood supply to the trigeminal ganglion. It passes upwards through the foramen ovale to supply the dura mater of the floor of the middle fossa and of the trigeminal cave (Meckel’s cave).

Branches from the 2nd (pterygoid) segment

All branches from the pterygoid part supply only soft tissues.

The masseteric artery accompanies the lingual nerve. It is small, and passes laterally through the mandibular notch to the deep surface of the masseter muscle.

The pterygoid arteries are small branches that vary in number. They supply the lateral pterygoid muscle and medial pterygoid muscle.

The deep temporal arteries course between the temporalis muscle and the pericranium. The main function of this branch is to provide arterial supply to the temporalis muscle. 

The buccal (buccinator) artery runs obliquely forward, between the medial pterygoid muscle and the insertion of the temporalis muscle, to the outer surface of the buccinator muscle. It mainly supplies the buccinator muscle. Along its course, it forms anastomoses with branches of the facial and infraorbital arteries. 

Branches from the 3rd (pterygopalatine) segment

The sphenopalatine artery mainly supplies the nasal cavity which is why it is also referred to as the nasopalatine artery. It passes through the sphenopalatine foramen and enters the nasal cavity. Here it gives off its posterior lateral nasal branches. Crossing the inferior surface of the sphenoid, the sphenopalatine artery ends on the nasal septum giving off the posterior septal branches.

The descending palatine artery descends through the greater palatine canal with the greater and lesser palatine branches of the pterygopalatine ganglion. It terminates by dividing into the greater and lesser palatine arteries that provide blood supply for the hard palate and soft palate, respectively.

The infraorbital artery passes forwards through the inferior orbital fissure, along the floor of the orbit and infraorbital canal to emerge with the infraorbital nerve on the face.

The posterior superior alveolar artery supplies the maxillary teeth. It gives branches that accompany the corresponding nerves through foramina in the posterior wall of the maxilla.

The middle superior alveolar artery is most often a branch of the infraorbital artery.  It arises within the infraorbital canal where it descends to supply the maxillary sinus and plexus at the level of the canine.

The pharyngeal artery supplies structures such as the pharynx and roof of the nose.

The anterior superior alveolar artery is branch of the infraorbital artery. 

The artery of the pterygoid canal runs into the pterygoid canal. It passes backwards along the pterygoid canal with the corresponding nerve. It supplies the upper part of the pharynx, and sends a small division into the tympanic cavity to anastomose with the tympanic arteries.

Maxillary artery branches mnenonic

The main trunk of the maxillary artery extends into the following fifteen branches, which can be remembered using the mnemonic:

DAMn I AM Piss Drunk But Stupid Drunk I Prefer, Must Phone Alcoholics Anonymous” 

This mnemonic stands for:

  • Deep auricular artery
  • Interior tympanic artery
  • Middle meningeal artery
  • Inferior alveolar artery
  • Accessory meningeal artery
  • Masseteric artery
  • Pterygoid artery
  • Deep temporal artery
  • Buccinator artery
  • Sphenopalatine artery
  • Descending palatine artery
  • Infraorbital artery
  • Posterior superior alveoar artery
  • Middle superior alveolar artery
  • Pharyngeal artery
  • Anterior superior alveolar artery
  • Artery of the pterygoid canal

Another great way to revise the branches of the maxillary artery is with spaced repetition. Find out how you can do just that by making your own flashcards!

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