Lumbar veins

Last revised by Angela Liao on 20 May 2023

The lumbar veins are paired segmental veins that drain structures of the back and posterior abdominal wall. They are the venous complement of the lumbar arteries. They primarily drain into the inferior vena cava and ascending lumbar veins.

Gross anatomy

There are usually four pairs of lumbar veins. They originate in the posterolateral abdominal wall and course medially towards the midline, accompanied by the lumbar arteries. They pass posterior to the psoas major muscle and as they cross anterior to the lumbar vertebral transverse processes, they communicate with the ascending lumbar veins.

The lower two lumbar veins continue medially after communicating with the ascending lumbar veins to drain into the inferior vena cava. The proximal course of the upper two lumbar veins is highly variable and can drain into the inferior vena cava, renal vein, lower lumbar veins or terminate at the ascending lumbar vein.

Tributaries of the lumbar vein include the internal vertebral venous plexus, epigastric veins, gonadal veins and superficial veins of the abdomen.

Variant anatomy

  • variable number of lumbar veins, range: 2-5 2

  • variable drainage of upper lumbar veins

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