Superior ophthalmic vein

Dr Maxime St-Amant and Dr Craig Hacking et al.

The superior ophthalmic vein is a prominent vein of the orbit that is seen on CT and may be enlarged or tortuous in various disease entities.

Gross anatomy

The vein forms at the confluence of several veins within the superior orbit above the medial palpebral ligament: the angular, supratrochlear and supraorbital veins. It courses medially towards the trochlea between the optic nerve and ophthalmic artery (inferior) and the superior rectus muscle (superior). As it curves laterally in the posterior orbit, it exits the fibromuscular cone to leave the orbit via the superior orbital fissure between the frontal nerve and trochlear nerve. It drains directly into the cavernous sinus.

The vein drains parts orbit such as the globe, extra-ocular muscles and the lacrimal gland.

The mean diameter of the vein is 2 mm and normal sizes range from 1 to 2.9 mm 2. A threshold value of 2.5 mm has also been proposed 3.

Related pathology

Enlarged or tortuous superior ophthalmic veins may be seen in:

Reversible bilateral enlargement of the superior ophthalmic veins is often seen in intubated patients 3. The superior ophthalmic veins may be hyperdense on CT due to thrombosis, including in cases of orbital cellulitis.

Head and neck anatomy
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Article information

rID: 41992
Section: Anatomy
Tag: refs, cases
Synonyms or Alternate Spellings:
  • Dilatation of the superior ophthalmic vein
  • Dilatation of the superior ophthalmic veins
  • Dilation of the superior ophthalmic vein
  • Dilation of the superior ophthalmic veins
  • Dilated superior ophthalmic veins
  • Dilated superior ophthalmic vein
  • SOV
  • Enlarged superior ophthalmic vein
  • Enlarged superior ophthalmic veins
  • Tortuous superior ophthalmic vein
  • Tortuous superior ophthalmic veins
  • Superior ophthalmic veins

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Cases and figures

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    Figure 1: orbital apex diagram
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