Superior vena cava

The superior vena cava is an important vein that drains deoxygenated blood from the head, neck, thorax, and arms.

It is a short trunk vein (approx. 62mm to 75mm in length) that is formed by the junction of the two innominate veins - which are also known as brachiocephalic veins, that are located on each side of the neck. The superior vena cava begins from a position close to the sternum, just below the cartilage of the first rib. It descends vertically and enters the pericardium (a sac that surrounds and protects the heart) from above.

This vein, together with the inferior vena cava, delivers deoxygenated blood collected from from all of the veins throughout the body to the right atrium of the heart.

These veins may be referred to as vena cava, or collectively using the pural form of "vena cava", which is "venae cavae".

For a diagram of the positions of the superior vena cava and the inferior vena cava in relation to the positions of other major veins and arteries, see systemic circulation.

More about the heart and blood circulation: This website includes many pages about the heart, blood, blood circulation, disorders of the blood circulation system, and related topics. Some topics relevant to the subject of this page are listed below. Visit these pages or use the search bar to access further information.

For further information see also our pages of books about heart disease.

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