Superior Mediastinum and Root of Neck LO 3

3. What are the major vascular (artery & vein) pathways of the head & neck and upper limbs?


The arch of aorta (aortic arch) connects the ascending aorta to the descending aorta. Typically, three branches - brachiocephalic trunk (giving rise to the R. subclavian a. & R common carotid a.), L. common carotid a., & L. subclavian a. - originate from the arch of aorta to supply blood to the head, neck, upper limbs, and thorax.


The common carotid a. bifurcates into the internal and external carotid aa.


The internal carotid a. has no branches in the neck. It travels to the cranium, where it is transmitted through the carotid canal, and supplies blood to the brain, orbit, and forehead.

The external carotid a. is the primary source of blood to the face and superficial head. The external carotid has eight branches:

  • superior thyroid a.
  • ascending pharyngeal a.
  • occipital a.
  • lingual a.
  • facial a.
  • posterior auricular a.
  • maxillary a.
  • superficial temporal a.


The subclavian a. (SCA) supplies the neck, cranial cavity (& brain), anterior wall of the thorax, and upper limbs.


The superior vena cava transmits blood from the head, neck, upper limbs, and thorax to the right atrium of the heart. The superior vena cava is formed by the confluence of the brachiocephalic vv., which are each formed by the confluence of the internal jugular (IJ) vv. and subclavian vv. The L. brachiocephalic v. is located immediately anterosuperior to the aorta.