Superior vena cava

Last revised by Assoc Prof Craig Hacking on 15 Sep 2021

The superior vena cava (SVC) is a large valveless venous channel formed by the union of the brachiocephalic veins. It receives blood from the upper half of the body (except the heart) and returns it to the right atrium.

The superior vena cava begins behind the lower border of the first right costal cartilage and descends vertically behind the first and second intercostal spaces to drain into the right atrium at the superior cavoatrial junction (at the level of the third costal cartilage). Its lower half is covered by the fibrous pericardium, which it pierces at the level of the second costal cartilage 1.

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Cases and figures

  • Figure 1: mediastinum (Gray's illustration)
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  • Case 1: SVC anatomy
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  • Figure 2: venous development (Gray's illustrations)
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  • Figure 3: caval variants
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