Mnemonic Monday: PMS, Angry Ladies, and the External Carotid Artery

By Molly Lewis

We’ve all had mini “anatomy panic attacks.” Maybe you’re in an anatomy practical and have only 30 seconds to identify the flagged structure, or maybe you’re in the OR and your attending asks: “What’s this?” Regardless of the situation, using mnemonics to remember anatomy can turn panic into confidence!

Sometimes it’s possible to guess an structure’s name simply using its location- for example, the deep femoral artery. It’s an artery, it’s by the femur, and it’s deep. Other times, however, an artery may have so many branches that it’s difficult just to remember the names, not to mention the order in which they branch off!

Let’s start with a mnemonic for the external carotid artery. Its 8 branches are the:

Superior thyroid
Ascending pharyngeal
Posterior auricular
Superficial temporal

I remember these branches using the sentence:

Some Angry Ladies Fight Off PMS.”

I invented this mnemonic by modifying one I’d found on the Internet (Some Angry Lady Figured Out PMS- from With my version, not only does the mnemonic include a letter for each branch of the artery in the order in which they branch off, but the theme matches, too!

Anger -> pulsing neck veins -> external carotid artery!

Maybe it’s a loose connection, but when you’re under stress and can’t even remember which of the numerous mnemonics you’ve memorized goes with which artery, it’s little tricks like this that help!

Don’t particularly like my mnemonic? Here are some other options:

Or, for something a little more edgy:

(I won’t delve into the, um, less polite options).

So, pick your favorite, or, invent your own! You can build it from scratch, or you can do what I did- tweak a mnemonic so that it’ll work for you! If you invent something brilliant, post it below!

Categories: Mnemonics

2 replies »

  1. Sounds like we had a similar cionokg experience yesterday. I bought a chicken to cook for dinner and had to reach inside to remove the gross parts. While doing that and trying to keep the chicken juices contained, I turned my back on my son for a minute, who had opened a drawer, taken out an ice cream scoop, and banged it about 100 times on 3 of my kitchen drawers, denting them and chipping the paint off in about 100 little places. Then when I went to cook the chicken, the oven started smoking like crazy due to the oil/juices dripping in the pan. Fire alarms, etc. went off until I added some water underneath. Then I had the pleasure of cleaning the paint chips off the floor while bracing to tell my husband about his new cabinet refacing project.

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