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External iliac vein

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Major veins of the thorax and abdomen.
External iliac vein (Vena iliaca externa)

The external iliac vein arises from the femoral vein as its proximal continuation. It runs from the posterior aspect of the inguinal ligament and terminates around the sacroiliac joint. Anterior to the sacroiliac joint, the internal iliac and external iliac veins unite to form the common iliac vein.

The main function of the external iliac vein is to drain deoxygenated blood from the leg, anterior abdominal wall and the pubic region.

This article will discuss the anatomy and function of the external iliac vein.

Key facts about the external iliac vein
Drains from Femoral vein
Tributaries Inferior epigastric vein, deep circumflex iliac vein, pubic vein
Drains to Common iliac vein
Drainage area Skin and muscle of anterior abdominal wall, pubic region, leg
  1. Origin and course
  2. Tributaries and drainage area
  3. Sources
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Origin and course

The external iliac vein originates posterior to the inguinal ligament as a direct continuation of the femoral vein. It runs superomedially across the pelvic brim towards the sacrum, accompanied by the corresponding artery which runs laterally.

On its course, the external iliac vein is crossed by the ureter, ductus deferens (males) and round ligament and ovarian vessels (females). When it reaches the anterior aspect of the sacroiliac joint, it merges with the internal iliac vein to form the common iliac vein.

Tributaries and drainage area

The external iliac vein drains the structures of the leg, anterior abdominal wall and pubic region. The main tributaries of the external iliac vein include:

  • The inferior epigastric vein drains the inferior portion of the anterior abdominal wall. It empties into the external iliac vein 1 cm above the inguinal ligament.
  • The deep iliac circumflex vein is formed by the union of the venae comitantes of the deep iliac circumflex artery. It crosses the external iliac artery and empties into the external iliac vein.
  • The pubic vein is an anastomosis between the external iliac and obturator vein.

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