Connection lost. Please refresh the page.
Get help How to study Login Register
Ready to learn?
Pick your favorite study tool

Superficial temporal artery

Recommended video: Superficial blood vessels of the head [23:07]
Superficial arteries and veins of the head and scalp.
Superficial temporal artery (Arteria temporalis superficialis)

The superficial temporal artery is a terminal branch of the external carotid artery. It originates at the level of the neck of the mandible. After traversing the parotid gland, it runs superficially to the zygomatic process of the temporal bone.

When the superficial temporal artery enters the scalp in the temporal region, it gives off two terminal branches that supply the skin and pericranium of the frontal and parietal regions. Additionally, this artery supplies the parotid gland, temporomandibular joint and several muscles of the head and face.

This article will discuss the anatomy and function of the superficial temporal artery.

Key facts about the superficial temporal artery
Origin Terminal branch of external carotid artery
Branches Parotid branch, transverse facial artery, anterior auricular branches, zygomatico-orbital artery, middle temporal artery, frontal branch, parietal branch
Supply Skin and muscles at the side of the face and in the scalp, parotid gland,  temporomandibular joint
  1. Course
  2. Branches and supply
  3. Anatomical variations
  4. Clinical relations
    1. Temporal arteritis
    2. Dissection
  5. Sources
+ Show all


The superficial temporal artery is the smaller of two terminal branches of the external carotid artery. While the bigger branch, maxillary artery, courses transversally towards the face, the superficial temporal artery continues in the same direction as the external carotid artery.

The superficial temporal artery originates in the parotid gland, at the level of the neck of the mandible. It runs tortuously upward crossing over the zygomatic process in front of the tragus of the auricle accompanied by the matching vein and auriculotemporal nerve. This is an important clinical landmark for palpating the pulse in the temporal region. When it reaches the parietal surface of calvaria, approximately 3 cm superior to the zygomatic process, it gives off two terminal branches (anterior and posterior).

Branches and supply

Superficial temporal artery gives off several branches that include:

  • Parotid branch
  • Transverse facial artery
  • Anterior auricular branch
  • Zygomatico-orbital artery
  • Middle temporal artery
  • Frontal branch
  • Parietal branch

At the beginning of its course (in the parotid gland), the superficial temporal artery gives off the parotid and transverse facial arteries. The parotid branch immediately terminates supplying the surrounding parotid tissue. The transverse facial artery continues its course parallel to the zygomatic process, giving off several branches that supply the parotid duct, masseter muscle and the adjacent skin.

Zygomatico-orbital and middle temporal arteries originate at the level of the zygomatic arch to supply the temporal and orbicularis oculi muscles, respectively. The anterior auricular branch supplies the auricle and the external acoustic meatus.

When it reaches the calvaria in the temporal region, the superficial temporal artery gives off two terminal branches: anterior (frontal) branch and posterior (parietal) branch. The anterior branch runs anterosuperiorly supplying the muscles, pericranium and skin of the lateral frontal area. The larger, posterior branch runs superiorly and slightly posterior supplying the skin and pericranium of the parietal area of the scalp.

Learn more about the superficial arteries and veins of the head with our articles, videos, labeled diagrams and quizzes.

Anatomical variations

Certain anatomical variations of the superficial temporal artery are noted in the literature. When larger in diameter, this artery can give rise to several branches normally provided by other arteries. For example: maxillary (normally from external carotid), lateral nasal and labial arteries (normally provided by facial artery). On the other hand, some branches of the superficial temporal artery can originate from other adjacent arteries. The best example of this variation is the transverse facial artery that can arise directly from the external carotid.

Superficial temporal artery: want to learn more about it?

Our engaging videos, interactive quizzes, in-depth articles and HD atlas are here to get you top results faster.

What do you prefer to learn with?

“I would honestly say that Kenhub cut my study time in half.” – Read more.

Kim Bengochea Kim Bengochea, Regis University, Denver
© Unless stated otherwise, all content, including illustrations are exclusive property of Kenhub GmbH, and are protected by German and international copyright laws. All rights reserved.

Register now and grab your free ultimate anatomy study guide!