Thyrolingual trunk

Last revised by Andrew Murphy on 12 Sep 2021

A thyrolingual trunk is an anatomical variant in which the superior thyroid artery and lingual artery share a common trunk 1. This is in contrast to the typical pattern of both vessels emerging independently from the external carotid artery. Other variations of origin include a linguofacial trunk (lingual and facial arteries) and thyrolinguofacial trunk (superior thyroid, facial and lingual arteries) 1. The thyrolingual trunk can also potentially branch from the common carotid artery 2.


The reported incidence of the variant has been quoted as around 2.5% when branching from the external carotid artery 2.

Clinical importance

Variation in the pattern of branching of the carotid arteries is important in surgery of the neck and head. Variations in vascular anatomy have been correlated with a greater prevalence of complications and should also be considered in the treatment of complications such as hemorrhage 3. Variant trunks should be considered when chemoembolization is performed due to common origins and blood supply of tissue 3,4.

The branches of the external carotid artery also act as key marks in exposure and cross-clamp placement in carotid endarterectomy, therefore an understanding is important to avoid complications 5.

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