The angiosomes of the head and neck: anatomic study and clinical applications

Plast Reconstr Surg. 2000 Jun;105(7):2287-313. doi: 10.1097/00006534-200006000-00001.


The angiosome concept was introduced over a decade ago by Taylor and Palmer, whereby the body was considered to be composed anatomically of multiple three-dimensional composite blocks of tissue supplied by particular source arteries. Since then, detailed studies of the forearm and leg have been examined by Taylor and his coworkers. This study focuses on another region--the head and neck. Six fresh head and neck cadaver specimens were examined after infusion with a radio-opaque lead oxide mixture and correlated with over 24 previous body studies. The vascular anatomy of the skin, superficial musculoaponeurotic system (SMAS), muscles, brain, dura, and bone was examined. Each layer was painstakingly removed, photographed, labeled, and mapped to the respective arteries and veins. A radiologic subtraction technique was used to allow successive layers to be compared. This information was then scanned into a computer, analyzed, color coded, and labeled, thereby producing a three-dimensional study of the head and neck region to identify the respective angiosomes. As in previous detailed examinations of the leg and forearm, the angiosomes were found to be connected usually within tissues, such as muscle, skin, specialized organs or glands, rather than between the tissues. The muscles usually had vessels of two or more angiosomes supplying them and fell into three major groups based on the similarity of their arterial supply. In some areas, the midline anastomoses were rich, especially in the integument of the scalp, forehead, and lips. In other regions, the midline vascular connections were poor, especially in the tongue and palate. No fewer than 13 angiosomes of the head and neck, supplied by the branches of the external carotid, internal carotid, and subclavian arteries, have been defined, mapping their three-dimensional territories in the skin, the deep soft tissues, and the bones. Although most angiosomes spanned between skin and bone, three territories, those of the vertebral, lingual, and ascending pharyngeal vessels, were confined to the deep tissues without cutaneous representation. Finally, this study provides additional data for the surgeon to help plan safer incisions and better reconstructive flap procedures. It also gives information that may help explain the etiology and treatment of head and neck arteriovenous vascular malformations.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Arteries / anatomy & histology
  • Arteriovenous Malformations / surgery*
  • Cadaver
  • Head / blood supply*
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms / blood supply
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms / surgery*
  • Humans
  • Muscle, Skeletal / blood supply*
  • Neck / blood supply*
  • Reconstructive Surgical Procedures / methods
  • Reference Values
  • Regional Blood Flow
  • Skin / blood supply*
  • Surgical Flaps / blood supply*
  • Vascular Surgical Procedures / methods
  • Veins / anatomy & histology