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Common iliac vein

Last revised by Assoc Prof Craig Hacking on 15 Sep 2021

The common iliac vein, (TA: vena iliaca communis) corresponding with the common iliac artery, drains venous blood from the pelvis, lower limbs and their associated structures.

It originates anterior to the sacroiliac joint, from the union of the internal and external iliac veins. The common iliac veins are valveless in most people 3, and therefore may be used as central veins for the purposes of measuring right atrial pressures.

It courses superiorly and obliquely to unite with the contralateral vein, forming the inferior vena cava at the level of the L5 vertebral body.

Bilaterally, the veins receive the iliolumbar and lateral sacral veins which drain the iliopsoas muscle, L4 and L5 vertebrae and the obturator vein from the medial compartment of the thigh. The left common iliac vein additionally receives the median sacral vein.

Left common iliac vein

  • anteriorly: attachment of the sigmoid mesocolon, superior rectal vessels
  • laterally: common iliac artery (later anteriorly, further up its course)

Right common iliac vein

  • anteriorly: common iliac artery (later medially, further up its course)
  • posteriorly: right obturator nerve

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Cases and figures

  • Figure1: venous development (Gray's illustrations)
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