Introduction to Middle Meningeal Artery (MMA)

The middle meningeal artery is a crucial blood vessel. It is located in the meninges, which are the protective membranes that surround the brain and spinal cord. Specifically, it is found in the middle layer of the meninges, known as the dura mater. The middle meningeal artery is a branch of the maxillary artery. While the maxillary artery is itself a branch of the external carotid artery. This article explores the anatomy, functions, and clinical significance of the MMA, helping in the realm of neurology and neurosurgery. First, let’s discuss the Anatomy of the Middle Meningeal Artery.

Middle Meningeal Artery

In the upcoming section, we will discuss the Anatomy of the Middle Meningeal Artery.

Anatomy of the Middle Meningeal Artery (MMA)

The Middle Meningeal Artery (MMA) is a vital component of the vascular system within the cranial cavity. We will talk about the origin and course of the MMA, as well as its relation to other cranial structures.

external carotid artery

Origin of the MMA

The MMA is a branch of the Maxillary Artery, itself a branch of the External Carotid Artery. This origin occurs within the infratemporal fossa. Infratemporal Fossa is an anatomical space located on the lateral aspect of the skull, below the temporal bone. To be more specific, the MMA typically arises from the first or second part of the Maxillary Artery.

Foramen spinosum

Course of the MMA

After its origin, the MMA takes a tortuous and intricate course within the cranial cavity. It enters the cranial cavity through the foramen spinosum. Foramen spinosum is a small opening located in the greater wing of the sphenoid bone. Once inside the cranial cavity, it splits into anterior and posterior divisions, which have distinct courses.


Relationship to Other Cranial Structures

The MMA has several important relationships with other cranial structures:

  • The Dura Mater: The MMA runs in the epidural space, a potential space between the dura mater and the skull. Its branches supply blood to the dura mater, contributing to the vascularization of this protective membrane.
  • Pterion: The pterion is a critical landmark in the skull, where the frontal, parietal, temporal, and sphenoid bones converge. The MMA is closely related to the pterion and can be at risk during traumatic injuries to this area. A blow to the pterion can cause the MMA to rupture, leading to an epidural hematoma.
  • Middle Cranial Fossa: The middle cranial fossa is a depression on the base of the skull. The MMA’s course within the cranial cavity places it within the middle cranial fossa. This region contains vital structures like the temporal lobe of the brain and the cavernous sinus.
Middle Cranial Fossa

In the upcoming part, we will talk about the Branches of the Middle Meningeal Layer (MMA). Accessory Branch, Frontal Branch, and Orbital Branch are some of the Branches. There are more such branches, which we shall discuss.

Branches of MMA

The middle meningeal artery gives off several branches as it courses through the skull to supply blood to various structures. These branches include:

  1. Accessory Branch: The accessory branch of the middle meningeal artery is a small but important subsidiary vessel. It typically arises from the middle meningeal artery near its origin. This branch often supplies blood to the meninges, which are the protective membranes covering the brain and spinal cord. Although it’s not as prominent as some of the other branches. This branch can still play a role in maintaining the vascular supply to the brain.
  2. Frontal Branch: The frontal branch of the middle meningeal artery is one of its major divisions. It is responsible for supplying blood to the frontal lobes of the brain. While they are involved in higher cognitive functions, personality, and voluntary motor control. Damage or rupture of this branch can lead to bleeding within the frontal lobes, potentially causing serious neurological problems.
  3. Orbital Branch: The orbital branch of the middle meningeal artery travels toward the orbit (eye socket). It can supply blood to various structures within the orbit. The structures are extraocular muscles controlling eye movement, the lacrimal gland for tear production, and the periorbita (surrounding the eye). This branch is vital for maintaining the health of the eye and surrounding tissues.
  4. Parietal Branch: The parietal branch plays a crucial role in supplying blood to the parietal lobes of the brain. The parietal lobes help in sensory processing, spatial awareness, and interpretation of sensory information from other parts of the brain. Damage to this branch can lead to sensory deficits and disturbances in spatial perception.
  5. Petrosal Branch: The petrosal branch typically enters the cranial cavity through the petrous part of the temporal bone. It contributes to the blood supply of various structures within the temporal bone, including the inner ear. This branch is important for hearing and balance as it provides oxygen and nutrients to the structures.
  6. Anastomotic Branch: The anastomotic branch forms connections or anastomoses with other blood vessels in the brain. Primarily with branches of the internal carotid artery and the anterior cerebral artery. These anastomoses serve as a backup blood supply system for the brain. It provides collateral circulation to safeguard essential brain areas in case of artery compromise.

Now, we will look into the various functions and roles the middle meningeal artery plays. The roles, one must keep in mind while diagonising. We will come onto this artery shortly.

Functions of Middle Meningeal Artery

This artery plays several crucial functions within the intracranial and meningeal compartments:

  1. Supplying the Meninges: The MMA primarily supplies to the meningeal layers covering the brain and spinal cord. This arterial supply ensures that the meninges receive oxygen and nutrients necessary for their metabolic functions.
  2. Temperature Regulation: The MMA, like other arteries in the brain, contributes to the regulation of cerebral temperature. It helps to maintain the optimal temperature for brain function, which is critical for overall neurological health.
  3. Role in Cranial Circulation: The MMA contributes to cranial circulation in several ways:
    • Collateral Circulation: In cases where the major vessels supplying the brain become compromised (e.g., due to stenosis or embolism). The MMA can act as part of the collateral circulation system. It helps maintain blood flow to the brain, ensuring that brain tissue continues to receive oxygen and nutrients.
    • Branches to the Skull: The MMA provides branches to the bones of the skullcap, aiding in the vascularization of the bone tissue. This is important for bone health and repair.

Let’s look at the clinical role the middle meningeal artery plays, in the case of Epidural Hematoma.

Clinical Significance

The middle meningeal artery (MMA) is a small but crucial blood vessel located in our skull. It plays a significant role in a medical condition called epidural hematoma. Let’s explore why the middle meningeal artery is important in this context.

Epidural hematoma

Epidural Hematoma

Epidural hematoma is a medical emergency characterized by the accumulation of blood between the outermost layer of the brain. It is typically caused by a traumatic head injury, such as a car accident, fall, or sports-related injury. This condition requires immediate medical attention because the accumulation of blood can rapidly compress the brain. This will lead to severe neurological deficits or even death if left untreated. Common symptoms include:

  • Severe Headache: Often described as a sudden and severe headache that worsens over time.
  • Loss of Consciousness: The individual may lose consciousness at the time of injury. Then, it is followed by a period of apparent improvement before deteriorating.
  • Nausea and Vomiting: These symptoms can occur due to increased intracranial pressure.
  • Weakness or Paralysis: Depending on the location of the hematoma, weakness or paralysis may occur on one side of the body.
  • Dilated Pupils: One pupil may appear larger than the other, a sign of increasing pressure on the brain.
Man radiologist doing MRI Scans

To diagnose an epidural hematoma, healthcare professionals typically use imaging techniques such as CT scans or MRI. These imaging studies help determine the size and location of the hematoma, assisting in the decision-making process for surgical intervention.


In summary, the middle meningeal artery (MMA) is a critical blood vessel in the cranial cavity. Originating from the maxillary artery, it supplies various cranial structures and plays essential roles.

Anatomically, the MMA is associated with the dura mater, courses through the foramen spinosum, and is near key cranial landmarks. It has multiple branches serving vital functions.

Functionally, the MMA supplies the meninges, helps regulate cerebral temperature, and supports cranial circulation. It acts as a backup blood supply in case of major vessel compromise.

Clinically, the MMA is crucial in cases of epidural hematoma, where it can bleed after head trauma. Surgeons must control MMA bleeding during surgery to remove the hematoma and relieve brain pressure.

Understanding the MMA’s anatomy, functions, and clinical importance is vital in neurology and neurosurgery. As it impacts cranial health and emergency interventions like epidural hematomas.

Further Reading

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  1. Wikipedia:
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  1. Ahmerasif, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
  2. Mikael Häggström.When using this image in external works, it may be cited as:Häggström, Mikael (2014). “Medical gallery of Mikael Häggström 2014”. WikiJournal of Medicine 1 (2). DOI:10.15347/wjm/2014.008. ISSN 2002-4436. Public Domain.orBy Mikael Häggström, used with permission., Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
  3. Schädelbasis1.jpg: Welleschikderivative work: Mcstrother, CC BY-SA 2.5, via Wikimedia Commons
  4. Anatomist90, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
  5. BruceBlaus, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
  6. MAKY.OREL, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons
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