Maxillary artery

A.Prof Frank Gaillard et al.

The (internal) maxillary artery is the larger of the two terminal branches of the external carotid artery

Origin and course

The maxillary artery's origin is behind the neck of the mandible, at first, it is embedded in the substance of the parotid gland. From there it passes anterior between the ramus of the mandible and the sphenomandibular ligament, and then runs, either superficial or deep to the lateral pterygoid muscle, to the pterygopalatine fossa. It supplies the deep structures of the face.

The maxillary artery is divided into three portions by its relation to the lateral pterygoid muscle:

  • first (mandibular) part: posterior to lateral pterygoid muscle (five branches)
  • second (pterygoid or muscular) part: within lateral pterygoid muscle (five branches)
  • third (pterygopalatine) part: anterior to lateral pterygoid muscle (six branches including terminal branch)


First (mandibular) part

Five branches, each of which enters a bony foramen:

Second (pterygoid or muscular) part

Five branches although pterygoid branches are irregular in their number and origin:

Third (pterygopalatine) part

Six branches including the terminal branch: 

A long mnemonic to remember these branches is: 

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Head and neck anatomy
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Article information

rID: 4665
Section: Anatomy
Synonyms or Alternate Spellings:
  • Internal maxillary artery
  • Maxillary arteries
  • Internal maxillary arteries

Cases and figures

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    Figure 1: internal maxillary artery
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    Figure 2: maxillary artery - diagram
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