Origin of superior thyroid artery: under the surgeon’s knife

<div><p>Abstract Background The major arterial supply to the thyroid gland is from the superior and inferior thyroid arteries, arising from the external carotid artery and the thyrocervical trunk respectively. The external laryngeal nerve runs in close proximity to the origin of the superior thyroid artery in relation to the thyroid gland. The superior thyroid artery is clinically important in head and neck surgeries. Objectives To locate the origin of the superior thyroid artery, because wide variability is reported. To provide knowledge of possible variations in its origin, because it is important for surgical procedures in the neck. Methods The origin of the superior thyroid artery was studied by dissecting sixty adult human hemineck specimens from donated cadavers in a Department of Anatomy. Results The highest incidence observed was origin of the superior thyroid artery from the external carotid artery (88.33%), whereas origin from the common carotid bifurcation only occurred in 8.33%. However, in 3.33% of cases, the superior thyroid artery originated from the common carotid artery and in a single case, the external laryngeal nerve did not cross the stem of the superior thyroid artery at all, but ran ventral and parallel to the artery. Conclusions It is important to rule out anomalous origin of superior thyroid artery and verify its relationship to the external laryngeal nerve prior to ligation of the artery in thyroid surgeries, in order to prevent iatrogenic injuries. Moreover, because anomalous origins of the superior thyroid artery are only anatomic variants, thorough knowledge of these is decisive for head and neck surgeries.</p></div>