Vasculature of the Head

Arteries of the Head and Upper Torso

When oxygen-rich blood leaves the heart, it enters the aorta and the aortic arch. Three large arteries arise from the top of the aortic arch: the brachiocephalic artery, the left common carotid artery, and the left subclavian artery. The right subclavian artery and the right common carotid artery branch off of the brachiocephalic artery. These arteries supply blood to the head, brain, and arms.

Veins of the Head and Upper Torso

The large veins of the head are the internal and external jugular veins and the vertebral vein. Blood flows back to the heart from these jugular and vertebral veins to the subclavian vein (joining blood that is returning from the arms), then the superior vena cava, and on into the right atrium.


The circulatory system carries blood to all parts of the body, and the one-way flow of blood within the body is called circulation. Arteries (carrying oxygen-rich blood) transport blood away from the heart. Veins (carrying oxygen-poor blood) transport blood back to the heart.


Texas Heart Institute