Upper Limb LO5

5. Describe the primary venous drainage of the upper limb.

The veins of the upper limb may be loosely categorized as either superficial or deep, with the major (largest) veins of the upper limb being superficial.

Deep veins are typically accompanying veins (venae comitantes) of arteries (e.g. radial vv., ulnar vv., brachial vv., etc.). Deep veins, therefore, follow a very similar pattern of distribution as the arteries they accompany. Most deep veins of the upper limb return to either the basilic v., or its direct continuation, the axillary v.

The superficial hand and forearm are drained laterally (thumb side) by the cephalic v. and medially by the basilic v. The cephalic and basilic vv. course through the subcutaneous layer, often met with a variety of smaller tributaries. Often, blood from the cephalic v. may be shunted to the basilic v. from a frequently present median cubital v.

The point at which the basilic v. meets the brachial vv. near the origin of the axillary v. at the inferior/lateral margin of teres major m. The axillary v. becomes the subclavian v. at the lateral margin of the first rib (also the anatomical demarcation of the axillary & subclavian aa.).