Cephalic vein

The cephalic vein, along with the basilic vein, is one of the primary superficial veins that drain the upper limb 1. It courses through both the forearm and arm and terminates by draining into the axillary vein.  

Summary

  • origin: radial aspect of the superficial venous network of the dorsum of the hand
  • location:  courses upwards on the lateral aspect of the forearm and arm
  • drainage: palm of the hand, lateral aspect of the forearm and arm
  • tributaries: median cubital vein and accessory cephalic veins.

Gross anatomy

Origin

The cephalic vein arises in the anatomical snuffbox from the radial side of the superficial venous network of the dorsum of the hand 2.

Course

From the radial aspect of the superficial venous network, the cephalic vein arches around the radial aspect of the forearm to course through the anterolateral forearm 1. It then passes upwards over the anterior elbow region and ascends through the anterolateral brachium lateral to the biceps muscle in the deltopectoral groove (formed by the borders of the deltoid and pectoralis major muscles) 2, 3. The vein then passes through the anterior wall of the axilla, perforating the clavipectoral fascia to drain into the first part of the axillary vein 2,4.

Tributaries

Accessory cephalic veins can arise from either a venous plexus on the dorsum of the forearm or from the medial aspect of the dorsal venous network of the hands. These accessory veins then unite with the cephalic vein just inferior to the elbow 1. It may also receive blood from the variable median cubital vein.

Termination

The cephalic vein terminates by draining into the first part of the axillary vein 2.

Drainage

The cephalic vein drains the lateral side of the superficial venous network of the dorsum, which in turn drains blood from the palm of the hand 2. As it ascends, the cephalic vein drains bloods from the lateral aspect of the upper limbs via small superficial veins 1

Upper limb anatomy
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Article information

rID: 51652
System: Vascular
Section: Anatomy
Synonyms or Alternate Spellings:
  • Cephalic veins

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Cases and figures

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    Figure 1
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    Figure 2; superficial veins of the upper limb (Gray's illustration)
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