Occipital artery
The occipital artery arises from the external carotid artery
External carotid artery
In human anatomy, the external carotid artery is a major artery of the head and neck. It arises from the common carotid artery when it bifurcates into the external and internal carotid artery.-Course:...

 opposite the facial artery
Facial artery
The facial artery is a branch of the external carotid artery that supplies structures of the superficial face.-Structure:...

, its path is below the posterior belly of digastric to the occipital
The occiput is the anatomical term for the posterior portion of the head, in insects the posterior part of those head capsule.-Clinical significance:Trauma to the occiput can cause a basilar skull fracture....

 region. This artery supplies blood to the back of the scalp and sterno-mastoid muscles. Other muscles it supplies are deep muscles in the back and neck.

Course and Relations

At its origin, it is covered by the posterior belly of the Digastricus and the Stylohyoideus, and the hypoglossal nerve
Hypoglossal nerve
The hypoglossal nerve is the twelfth cranial nerve , leading to the tongue. The nerve arises from the hypoglossal nucleus and emerges from the medulla oblongata in the preolivary sulcus separating the olive and the pyramid. It then passes through the hypoglossal canal...

 winds around it from behind forward; higher up, it crosses the internal carotid artery
Internal carotid artery
In human anatomy, the internal carotid arteries are two major arteries, one on each side of the head and neck. They arise from the common carotid arteries where these bifurcate into the internal and external carotid artery, and they supply the brain....

, the internal jugular vein
Internal jugular vein
The two internal jugular veins collect the blood from the brain, the superficial parts of the face, and the neck.-Path:On both sides and at the base of the brain, the inferior petrosal sinus and the sigmoid sinus join to form the internal jugular vein...

, and the vagus and accessory nerve
Accessory nerve
In anatomy, the accessory nerve is a nerve that controls specific muscles of the shoulder and neck. As part of it was formerly believed to originate in the brain, it is considered a cranial nerve...


It next ascends to the interval between the transverse process of the atlas
Atlas (anatomy)
In anatomy, the atlas is the most superior cervical vertebra of the spine.It is named for the Atlas of Greek mythology, because it supports the globe of the head....

 and the mastoid process
Mastoid process
The mastoid process is a conical prominence projecting from the undersurface of the mastoid portion of the temporal bone. It is located just behind the external acoustic meatus, and lateral to the styloid process...

 of the temporal bone
Temporal bone
The temporal bones are situated at the sides and base of the skull, and lateral to the temporal lobes of the cerebrum.The temporal bone supports that part of the face known as the temple.-Parts:The temporal bone consists of four parts:* Squama temporalis...

, and passes horizontally backward, grooving the surface of the latter bone, being covered by the Sternocleidomastoideus, Splenius capitis, Longissimus capitis, and Digastricus, and resting upon the Rectus capitis lateralis, the Obliquus superior, and Semispinalis capitis
Semispinalis capitis
The Semispinalis capitis is situated at the upper and back part of the neck, deep to the Splenius, and medial to the Longissimus cervicis and capitis....


It then changes its course and runs vertically upward, pierces the fascia connecting the cranial attachment of the Trapezius with the Sternocleidomastoideus, and ascends in a tortuous course in the superficial fascia of the scalp, where it divides into numerous branches, which reach as high as the vertex of the skull
Vertex (anatomy)
In arthropod and vertebrate anatomy, the vertex refers to the upper surface of the head.In humans, the vertex is formed by four bones of the skull: the frontal bone, the two parietal bones, and the occipital bone...

 and anastomose with the posterior auricular
Posterior auricular artery
The posterior auricular artery is a small artery and arises from the external carotid artery, above the Digastric muscle and Stylohyoid muscle, opposite the apex of the styloid process....

 and superficial temporal arteries.


  1. Sternocleidomastoid branches : They are 2 in number and are given off in the Carotid triangle. The upper branch accompanies the accessory nerve, and the lower branch arises near the origin of the occipital artery.
  2. Auricular branch
  3. Mastoid branch
  4. Descending branches
  5. Occipital branches

Its terminal portion is accompanied by the greater occipital nerve
Greater occipital nerve
The greater occipital nerve is a spinal nerve, specifically the medial branch of the dorsal primary ramus of cervical spinal nerve 2. This nerve arises from between the first and second cervical vertebrae, along with the lesser occipital nerve. It ascends after emerging from the suboccipital...


External links

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