Thyrolinguofacial trunk

Last revised by Andrew Murphy on 12 Sep 2021

A thyrolinguofacial trunk is a very rare pattern of branching of the anterior branches of the external carotid artery. Rather than the facial artery, lingual artery, and superior thyroid artery having their own distinct origins, all three vessels originate from a common trunk of the external carotid artery 1. This makes the variant distinct to linguofacial and thyrolingual patterns of branching.

The confluence of the three vessels may represent the superior thyroid artery developing in an ectopic fashion from a linguofacial trunk; resulting in a common trunk between all three anterior branches of the external carotid artery 2


The presence of a thyrolinguofacial trunk is exceedingly rare with a number of studies suggesting an incidence of less than 1% 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 important landmarks in exposure and cross-clamp placement in carotid endarterectomy, therefore an understanding is important to avoid complications 5.

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