Great cerebral vein

Last revised by Andrew Murphy on 21 May 2023

The great cerebral vein, also known as the vein of Galen or great vein of Galen, is a short valveless midline venous trunk that drains the deep parts of the cerebrum, brainstem and parts of the posterior cranial fossa.

The great cerebral vein begins just below the pineal gland by the union of two pairs of veins; internal cerebral veins and basal veins of Rosenthal. The vein is short and valveless and curves backwards and upwards through the quadrigeminal cistern around the posterior border of the splenium of the corpus callosum to drain into the confluence of the inferior sagittal sinus and the straight sinus.

The drainage territory is highly variable although it usually directly drains the colliculi and receives numerous tributaries:

The great cerebral vein arises as a normal structure in utero derived from the median prosencephalic vein of Markowski.

Named after Greek philosopher-physician Aelius Galenus (129-200 AD)6 

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Cases and figures

  • Figure 1
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  • Figure 2: internal cerebral veins (Gray's illustration)
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  • Figure 3: vein of Galen malformation (illustration)
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  • Figure 3: venous vascular territories (illustration)
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