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Veins of the brain

Recommended video: Superficial veins of the brain [10:26]
Superficial veins of the brain seen from lateral and medial views of the brain.

The venous drainage of the brain, i.e. the cerebrum, brainstem and cerebellum, is highly complex and specialised. Specific attention to the anatomy of the veins located in the brain is important for students, as unlike much of the rest of the body, venous drainage does not generally follow arterial supply in this region. 

The veins of the brain are divided into superficial cerebral veins and internal cerebral veins, depending on whether they drain the superficial structures of the brain or the deep structures.

Key facts about the veins of the brain
Superficial veins of the cerebrum Superficial cerebral veins
Inferior cerebral veins
Superficial middle cerebral vein
Deep veins of the cerebrum Internal cerebral veins
Great cerebral vein (of Galen)
Basal veins
Veins of the cerebellum Superior cerebellar veins
Inferior cerebellar veins
Dural venous sinuses Superior sagittal sinus
Inferior sagittal sinus
Straight sinus
Transverse sinus
Sigmoid sinus
Cavernous sinus
Sphenoparietal sinus
Petrosal sinus
Occipital sinus.

In this article, the anatomy of the major veins of the cerebrum, cerebellum and brainstem will be discussed.

  1. Overview
  2. Cerebrum
    1. Superficial veins of the cerebrum
    2. Deep veins of the cerebrum
  3. Cerebellum
  4. Brainstem
  5. Clinical notes
  6. Sources
+ Show all


The veins of the brain are thin-walled, valveless and pierce the arachnoid mater and meningeal layer of dura mater (of meninges) to empty poorly oxygenated blood into the dural venous sinuses. The dural venous sinuses drain into the sigmoid sinus which becomes continuous with the internal jugular veins (IJVs).

Major veins of the brain include the superior and inferior cerebral veins, superficial middle cerebral veins, the great cerebral vein (of Galen), internal cerebral veins, as well as the superior and inferior cerebellar veins. They drain into the dural venous sinuses which are the:

Below is a description of veins of the brain in relation to the region of brain which they drain.

For more details about the dural venous sinuses, take a look below:


Veins of the cerebral hemispheres can be categorized into superficial and deep. The superficial veins chiefly drain the cerebral cortex, while the deep veins return blood from the deep structures of the cerebrum.

Superficial veins of the cerebrum

Superior cerebral veins

These veins drain the upper parts of the superolateral and medial surfaces of the cerebral hemisphere. They drain blood into the superior sagittal sinus.

Inferior cerebral veins

These veins return blood from the inferior aspect of the cerebral hemisphere into the transverse, superior petrosal, cavernous and sphenoparietal sinuses. Some also drain into the inferior sagittal sinus.

Superficial middle cerebral vein

This vein receives blood from veins on the superolateral surface, as it lies superficially along the lateral sulcus and the posterior ramus of lateral sulcus. The posterior end of this vein is connected to the superior sagittal sinus by the superior anastomotic vein (this is so because of its curve along the posterior ramus of lateral sulcus). The superficial middle cerebral vein is also connected to the transverse sinus by the inferior anastomotic vein. It terminates in the cavernous sinus.

Deep veins of the cerebrum

Internal structures of the cerebrum are drained by the following deep veins and their tributaries:

All of those deep veins and their tributaries drain the thalamus, hypothalamus, the corpus striatum, internal capsule, corpus callosum, septum pellucidum, the choroid plexuses and the white matter of the cerebral hemispheres.

Internal cerebral veins

The internal cerebral veins arise close to the interventricular foramen (of Monro), and run posteriorly along the dorsomedial aspect of the thalamus, parallel to each other. They course over the roof of the third ventricle, within the tela choroidea (a thin layer of connective tissue composed of pia mater externally and ependymal cells luminally, that lines the ventricles of the brain) to reach the splenium of the corpus callosum. Here, the two internal cerebral veins merge to form the great cerebral vein, which in turn drains into the straight sinus. The internal cerebral vein is formed mainly by the merger of the thalamostriate vein which runs between the thalamus and the caudate nucleus (a basal ganglia nucleus) and the choroidal vein which drains the choroid plexus of lateral ventricle. The internal cerebral veins are the main vessels that drain the internal structures of the cerebral hemisphere.

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Great cerebral vein

This vein which is formed by union of the two internal cerebral veins passes posteriorly beneath the splenium of the corpus callosum, to end in the straight sinus. It receives blood from the basal veins, some veins from the occipital lobes, and some from the corpus callosum.

Basal veins

The two basal veins wind around the midbrainto drain blood into the great cerebral vein. Each of these veins is formed by the union of the anterior cerebral vein (a vena comitans), deep middle cerebral vein, and some inferior striate veins, and begins near the anterior perforated substance.

To master the veins of the brain, examine the following study unit:


The cerebellum is drained by the superior and inferior cerebellar veins and their tributaries. From the upper surface of the cerebellum, blood is drained into the straight, transverse, and superior petrosal venous sinuses. The inferior cerebellar veins and their tributaries drain blood into the right and left sigmoid sinuses, inferior petrosal sinus, the occipital and straight sinuses.


Veins of the brainstem are tributaries of the great cerebral vein and basal vein. They are continuous with veins of the spinal cord, inferiorly. Those tributaries on the midbrain drain into the great cerebral vein or into the basal vein. Those within the pons and medulla, drain into the superior and inferior petrosal sinuses, the transverse sinus and into the occipital sinus.

  • Two internal cerebral veins
  • The great cerebral vein (of Galen)
  • Two basal veins.

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