Missed our latest free live-stream? Catch up now on our Procedure Tips (Chris Nicholas) and Right Lower Quadrant Pain (Matt Morgan)

Superior vena cava

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.

Anatomy: Thoracic


Article information

rID: 16483
System: Vascular, Chest
Section: Anatomy
Synonyms or Alternate Spellings:
  • Superior vena cavas
  • Superior venae cavae
  • SVC
  • Superior vena cava (SVC)

ADVERTISEMENT: Supporters see fewer/no ads

Cases and figures

  • Case 1: SVC anatomy
    Drag here to reorder.
  • Figure 2: caval variants
    Drag here to reorder.
  • Figure 3: mediastinum (Gray's illustration)
    Drag here to reorder.
  • Updating… Please wait.

     Unable to process the form. Check for errors and try again.

     Thank you for updating your details.