Cervical lymph nodes are found in direct relationship with the internal carotid artery: significance for the lymphatic drainage of the brain

Clin Anat. 2010 Jan;23(1):43-7. doi: 10.1002/ca.20887.


The brain has no conventional lymphatics, but solutes injected into it drain along artery walls and reach lymph nodes in the neck. This study seeks to identify cervical lymph nodes related to the human internal carotid artery (ICA) that could act as the first regional lymph nodes for the brain. Bilateral dissections were carried out on four embalmed human heads, from the level of the carotid bifurcation in the neck, to the base of the skull. Lymph nodes from every specimen were processed for histological examination. A total of 51 deep cervical lymph nodes were identified: 12 lymph nodes (confirmed by histological examination) were observed to be in direct relationship with the ICA. These lymph nodes were found within the carotid sheath and had average diameters of 13.5 x 4.8 mm. Solutes and interstitial fluid from the brain may drain along the walls of cerebral arteries and reach these lymph nodes. They may be sites of stimulation of immune responses against antigens from the brain.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Carotid Artery, Internal / anatomy & histology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lymph Nodes / anatomy & histology*
  • Male
  • Skull Base / anatomy & histology*