Subclavian vein

Last revised by Assoc Prof Craig Hacking on 15 Sep 2021

The subclavian veins are the major veins that drain the upper limbs.

Gross anatomy

Origin and course

The subclavian vein is the continuation of the brachial vein as it crosses the lateral border of the 1st rib. It then arches cephalad, posterior to the medial clavicle before curving caudally and receiving its only tributary, the external jugular vein, which drains into the subclavian vein at the lateral border of the anterior scalene muscle. The vein continues medially to pass anterior to the anterior scalene muscle (whereas the subclavian artery passes posterior to the muscle) and joins the internal jugular vein posterior to the sternoclavicular joint, where it forms the brachiocephalic vein. The thoracic duct (on the left) and right lymphatic duct (on the right) drain into the central venous system at this point.

The most central venous valve in the upper limb venous drainage lies in the lateral subclavian vein, and medial to this the veins are valveless, and are considered to be 'central veins'.

Relations
  • posterior: subclavian artery, anterior scalene muscle, 1st rib, pleura
  • anterior: clavicle

Related pathology

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Cases and figures

  • Figure 1: venous development (Gray's illustrations)
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