Morphological age-dependent development of the human carotid bifurcation

J Biomech. 2005 Mar;38(3):453-65. doi: 10.1016/j.jbiomech.2004.04.022.


The unique morphology of the adult human carotid bifurcation and its sinus has been investigated extensively, but its long-term, age-dependent development has not. It is important fundamentally and clinically to understand the hemodynamics and developmental forces that play a role in remodeling of the carotid bifurcation and maturation of the sinus in association with brain maturation. This understanding can lead to better prognostication and therapy of carotid disease. We analyzed the change of sinus morphology and the angle of the carotid bifurcation in four postnatal developmental stages (Group I: 0-2 years, Group II: 3-9 years, Group III: 10-19 years, and Group IV: 20-36 years, respectively) using multiprojection digital subtraction angiograms and image post-processing techniques. The most significant findings are the substantial growth of the internal carotid artery (ICA) with age and the development of a carotid sinus at the root of the ICA during late adolescence. The bifurcation angle remains virtually unchanged from infancy to adulthood. However, the angle split between the ICA and external carotid artery (ECA) relative to the common carotid artery (CCA) undergoes significant changes. Initially, the ICA appears to emanate as a side branch. Later in life, to reduce hydraulic resistance in response to increased flow demand by the brain, the bifurcation is remodeled to a construct in which both daughter vessels are a skewed continuation of the parent artery. This study provides a new analysis method to examine the development of the human carotid bifurcation over the developmental years, despite the small and sparse database. A larger database will enable in the future a more extensive analysis such as gender or racial differences.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Angiography, Digital Subtraction
  • Carotid Arteries / anatomy & histology*
  • Carotid Arteries / growth & development*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Growth and Development / physiology
  • Humans
  • Image Interpretation, Computer-Assisted
  • Infant
  • Morphogenesis / physiology