Superior ophthalmic vein

Last revised by Dr Calum Worsley on 09 Dec 2021

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

Origin

Formed in the anterior part of the orbit by the union of the angular, supraorbital and supratrochlear veins.

Course
Termination
Tributaries
  • vortex veins draining choroid
  • central retinal vein
  • veins that correspond to branches of the ophthalmic artery (ethmoidal vein, lacrimal)
Drains 

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.

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Cases and figures

  • Figure 1: orbital apex diagram
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  • Figure 2: orbital veins (Gray's illustration)
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  • Case 1: superior ophthalmic vein thrombosis
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  • Case 2: normal versus dilated
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