Skip to main content

Unfortunately we don't fully support your browser. If you have the option to, please upgrade to a newer version or use Mozilla Firefox, Microsoft Edge, Google Chrome, or Safari 14 or newer. If you are unable to, and need support, please send us your feedback.

Publish with us
Superior Vena Cava
Cardiovascular System

Superior Vena Cava

Vena cava superior

Read more


The superior vena cava is a large valveless vein approximately 7 cm long. It’s formed by the unification of the brachiocephalic veins behind the inferior edge of the first right costal cartilage. The left brachiocephalic vein is the most superficial structure in the superior mediastinum and it travels inferiorly and obliquely to join the right brachiocephalic vein, thus forming the superior vena cava. The superior vena cava descends vertically and opens into the right atrium at the level of the third right costal cartilage.

Complete Anatomy
The world's most advanced 3D anatomy platform
Try it for Free
Related parts of the anatomy

Key Features/Anatomical Relations

The hilum of the right lung sits posterolaterally to the superior vena cava, while the trachea and right vagus nerve sit posteriorly. The phrenic nerve descends laterally, while on its medial side the ascending aorta emerges from the pericardium. Inferiorly, the lower half of the superior vena cava sits within the pericardial sac.


The superior vena cava is responsible for the venous return of deoxygenated blood from regions of the body above the level of the diaphragm. It's formed by the union of the brachiocephalic veins, which contain the deoxygenated blood from the head, neck, and upper limb. It receives the azygos vein which drains the posterior thoracic wall. Additionally, it receives small tributaries from the pericardium and the adjacent mediastinal tissues.

List of Clinical Correlates

- Superior vena cava obstruction

Learn more about this topic from other Elsevier products

Superior Vena Cava

ScienceDirect image

The SVC syndrome refers to a constellation of symptoms and signs secondary to obstruction of blood flow through the SVC, producing severe reduction in venous return from the head and neck, upper trunk and extremities.

Explore on ScienceDirect(opens in new tab/window)

Complete Anatomy

The world's most advanced 3D anatomy platform

Complete Anatomy