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The axillary vein is one of the major veins of the upper limb. It is formed by the union of the paired brachial veins and the basilic vein and contributes to the drainage of the axilla, arm and superolateral chest wall.
- origin: formed by the union of the paired brachial veins and the basilic vein
- location: courses medial to the axillary artery in the axilla
- drainage: upper limb, axilla and superolateral chest wall
- tributaries: include the cephalic vein and five other tributaries which correspond to the branches of the axillary artery (see below)
- termination: continuous with the subclavian vein at the lateral border of the first rib
The axillary vein is formed at the inferior border of the axilla by the union of the paired brachial veins (venae comitantes of the brachial artery) and the basilic vein 1,2.
The axillary vein arises at the inferior border of the teres major muscle at the inferior border of the axilla 3. The vein ascends through the axilla medial to the axillary artery and then courses anterior to the subclavian artery to leave the axilla at its apex. It then passes in front of the scalenus anterior 1, where it becomes continuous with the subclavian vein at the lateral border of the first rib 2.
As with the axillary artery, the axillary vein can be divided into three parts by its relation to the pectoralis minor (above, behind or below) 1.
The second and third parts of the axillary vein have tributaries that correspond with the branches of the axillary artery. These include the thoracoacromial vein, lateral thoracic vein, subscapular vein, anterior circumflex humeral vein and posterior circumflex humeral vein.
The cephalic vein is a tributary of the first part of the axillary vein (above the pectoralis minor) and enters the vein after piercing the clavipectoral fascia 1.
The axillary vein terminates by becoming continuous with the subclavian vein at the lateral border of the first rib 2.
The axillary vein drains deoxygenated blood from the arm, axilla and superolateral chest wall 4. It also receives contributions from the thoracoepigastric vein of the anterolateral abdominal wall 5.
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