Carotid sheath

Carotid sheath
Section of the neck at about the level of the sixth cervical vertebra. Showing the arrangement of the fascia coli. Carotid sheath is labeled in red.
Latinvagina carotica fasciae cervicalis
Anatomical terminology

The carotid sheath is a condensation of the deep cervical fascia: 578  enveloping multiple vital neurovascular structures of the neck, including the common and internal carotid arteries, the internal jugular vein, the vagus nerve (CN X), and ansa cervicalis.: 578  The carotid sheath helps protects the structures contained therein.


One carotid sheath is situated on each side of the neck,: 266  extending between the base of the skull superiorly: 266  and the thorax inferiorly.: 266 

Superiorly, the carotid sheath encircles the margins of the carotid canal and jugular foramen.

Inferiorly, it terminates at the arch of the aorta; it is continuous inferiorly with the axillary sheath at the venous angle. Its inferior end occurs at the level of the first rib and sternum inferiorly (varying between the levels of C7 and T4).[citation needed]


The carotid sheath is a fibrous connective tissue formation surrounding several important structures of the neck. It is thicker around the arteries than around the vein, allowing the vein to expand.: 578 

The three major fascial layers in the neck contribute to the carotid sheath: the investing fascia, the pretracheal fascia, and the prevertebral fascia. The carotid sheath has limited loose connective tissue.


Structures contained within the carotid sheath include the:


The carotid sheath occurs at the level of the oropharynx.

The cervical sympathetic trunk is situated posteriormedial to the carotid sheath.: 551 

The carotid sheath is situated at each lateral boundary of the retropharyngeal space, deep to the sternocleidomastoid muscle.: 579 

The pharynx is situated medial to the carotid sheath, (in the suprahyoid region) the parotid gland laterally to it, in the suprahyoid region the infratemporal fossa anterior to it, and the prevertebral fascia posterior to it.


The carotid sheath acts to protect and separate the structures contained within.

Clinical significance

The carotid sheath may act as a conduit for infections, although this is rare due to the limited connective tissue.

Additional images

See also

This page was last updated at 2024-04-18 12:56 UTC. Update now. View original page.

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