Superficial temporal artery

In human anatomy, the superficial temporal artery is a major artery of the head. It arises from the external carotid artery when it splits into the superficial temporal artery and maxillary artery.

Superficial temporal artery
Frontal branch of the superficial temporal artery
Superficial dissection of the right side of the neck, showing the carotid and subclavian arteries.
SourceExternal carotid artery
BranchesTransverse facial artery
Middle temporal artery
Anterior auricular branch
frontal branch
parietal branch
Veinsuperficial temporal vein
Suppliestemple, scalp
Latinarteria temporalis superficialis
Anatomical terminology

Its pulse can be felt above the zygomatic arch, above and in front of the tragus of the ear.


The superficial temporal artery is the smaller of two end branches that split superiorly from the external carotid. Based on its direction, the superficial temporal artery appears to be a continuation of the external carotid.

It begins within the parotid gland, behind the neck of the mandible, and passes superficially over the posterior root of the zygomatic process of the temporal bone; about 5 cm above this process it divides into two branches, a. frontal and a. parietal.


The parietal branch of superficial temporal artery (posterior temporal) is a small artery in the head. It is larger than the frontal branch and curves upward and backward on the side of the head, lying superficial to the temporal fascia, and joins with its fellow of the opposite side, and with the posterior auricular and occipital arteries.

The frontal branch of superficial temporal artery (anterior temporal) runs tortuously upward and forward to the forehead, supplying the muscles, integument, and pericranium in this region, and anastomosing with the supraorbital and frontal arteries. An estimate of the path of the nerve in the soft tissue of the temporal frontal branch using landmarks by Pitanguy. He describes a line starting from a point 0.5 cm below the tragus in the direction of the eyebrow, passing 1.5 cm above the lateral extremity of the eyebrow


As it crosses the zygomatic process, it is covered by the auricularis anterior muscle, and by a dense fascia; it is crossed by the temporal and zygomatic branches of the facial nerve and one or two veins, and is accompanied by the auriculotemporal nerve, which lies immediately behind it.

The superficial temporal artery joins (anastomoses) with (among others) the supraorbital artery of the internal carotid artery.

Clinical significance

The superficial temporal artery is often affected in giant-cell arteritis and biopsied if the diagnosis is suspected.

Migraine attacks can occur when the temporal artery enlarges.

Additional images


This article incorporates text in the public domain from page 559 of the 20th edition of Gray's Anatomy (1918)

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