Venae cavae

Last revised by Dr Daniel J Bell on 11 Aug 2021

In human anatomy, the venae cavae is the collective term for the main venous great vessels that return deoxygenated blood to the right heart from the venous side of the systemic circulation, i.e. the superior vena cava (SVC) and inferior vena cava (IVC). Both venae cavae do not contain any valves and are considered to be central veins.

Gross anatomy

Superior vena cava

The superior vena cava is formed in the superior thorax from the confluence of the left and right brachiocephalic veins and flows into the craniad aspect of the right atrium.

Inferior vena cava

The inferior vena cava is formed in the abdomen by the confluence of the two common iliac veins. It terminates in the thorax as it flows into the inferior aspect of the right atrium, although there is no true intrathoracic component.

The SVC accounts for approximately one-quarter of the cardiac venous return, whilst the IVC accounts for the other three-quarters.

History and etymology

Vena cava is from the Latin for hollow vein 2.

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