Different ophthalmic artery origins: Embryology and clinical significance

Clin Anat. 2015 Jul;28(5):576-83. doi: 10.1002/ca.22470. Epub 2014 Sep 25.


This retrospective study gives a summary of ophthalmic artery (OA) variations to serve as guidelines for surgical interventionists and trainees. Pubmed and Medline searches were conducted. The OA usually arises intradurally (superomedial, anteromedial, or rarely superolateral) from the internal carotid artery (ICA). Rare extradural origin (primitive dorsal OA) (PDOA) remnant and extremely rare interdural origin (primitive ventral OA) (PVOA) remnant are of significance when sectioning the dural ring. Rarely, a persistent PDOA with ICA origin, or a PDOA remnant with inferolateral trunk origin, enters the orbit via the superior orbital fissure (SOF) for sole or partial orbital supply. Extremely rare, the PDOA and PVOA persist and form double OAs that arise from the ICA and run via the SOF and optic foramen. Occasionally, the OA arises from the middle meningeal artery (MMA), when both the PDOA and VDOA regress and enter the orbit via the SOF. Sole orbital supply via the external carotid artery (ECA), i.e. meningo-ophthalmic artery and/or MMA branches, or dual OAs (ECA and ICA origins) may occur. Other rare OA origins include anterior or posterior communicating artery; anterior or middle cerebral artery; basilar artery; posterior inferior cerebellar artery; and the carotid bifurcation. Primitive arteries (persistent or remnant), and/or abnormal anastomoses play pivotal roles in manifestations of OA variations. Of clinical importance are orbital collateral routes and dangerous extracranial-intracranial anastomoses. Awareness of OA origins and collateral routes is imperative for transarterial embolizations or infusion chemotherapy in the ECA territory to prevent visual complications.

Keywords: clinical significance; embryogenesis; ophthalmic artery origins.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Arteriovenous Anastomosis / physiopathology
  • Collateral Circulation / physiology
  • Embryonic Development / physiology
  • Humans
  • Ophthalmic Artery / embryology*
  • Orbit / blood supply
  • Retrospective Studies