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Brachiocephalic vein

Dr Yuranga Weerakkody and Dr Henry Knipe et al.

The brachiocephalic veins, previously known as the innominate veins, are large paired valveless asymmetric veins that drain the head, neck, upper limbs and part of the thorax and mediastinum.

Gross anatomy


In the root of the neck, the internal jugular (IJV) and subclavian veins unite to form the brachiocephalic veins posterior to the medial ends of the clavicles.


The left brachiocephalic vein is approximately 6 cm long and runs a long, oblique course to the right through the superior mediastinum anterior to the branches of the aortic arch to unite with the right brachiocephalic vein posterior to the first sternocostal joint to form the superior vena cava.

The right brachiocephalic vein is much shorter, approximately 2.5 cm long and runs a vertical course anterior to the brachiocephalic trunk. It becomes the superior vena cava as it is joined from the left by the left brachiocephalic vein.

Right brachiocephalic vein
Left brachiocephalic vein
  • anteriorly: pleura, upper lobes, thymus, manubrium
  • posteriorly: aortic arch (left brachiocephalic vein), great vessels, the dome of the pleura

Variant anatomy

Anatomy: Thoracic

Anatomy: Thoracic

Article information

rID: 24463
System: Chest, Vascular
Section: Anatomy
Tag: cases, cases
Synonyms or Alternate Spellings:
  • Right innominate vein
  • Left innominate vein
  • Right brachiocephalic vein
  • Left brachiocephalic vein
  • Innominate vein (IV)
  • Innominate veins
  • Innominate vein
  • Brachiocephalic veins
  • Brachiocephalic vein (BCV)

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Cases and figures

  • Case 1: contrast refluxing into a thymic vein
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  • Figure 1: mediastinum (Gray's illustration)
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