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Main veins of the head and neck

Learning objectives

After completing this study unit you will be able to:

1. Identify the main veins that drain the head and neck.
2. Learn the main tributaries of those veins and which areas they drain.

Watch videos

The head and neck are drained by three major paired venous vessels: internal jugular, brachiocephalic, and subclavian veins.

  • Internal jugular vein drains the majority of the face, brain and neck, which is why it's considered to be the principal vein of the head and neck regions.
  • Brachiocephalic veins arise from the confluence of the same sided internal jugular and subclavian veins. The left and right brachiocephalic veins merge to form the superior vena cava that conveys all the venous blood from the head and neck directly into the right atrium of the heart.
  • Subclavian vein primarily drains the upper limb, but it also collects the blood from the smaller jugular and vertebral veins.

This video tutorial will provide you with an overview of the main veins of the head and neck.

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Browse atlas

Browse our atlas gallery to learn more about the pathways and locations of the main veins of the head and neck.


Key points about the main veins of the head and neck
Main veins that drain head and neck Internal jugular vein, subclavian vein, brachiocephalic vein
Internal jugular vein Main tributaries: Inferior petrosal sinus, sigmoid sinus, meningeal veins, pharyngeal venous plexus, common facial vein, superior and middle thyroid veins, caverous sinus
Drainage area
: Brain, skull, oral cavity, superficial structures of face and neck
Brachiocephalic vein Main tributaries: Internal jugular vein, subclavian vein, vertebral vein, internal thoracic vein
Drainage area
: Head, neck, upper limb, upper thorax
Subclavian vein Main tributaries: Anterior jugular vein, external jugular vein, veins of the upper limb
Drainage area
: Upper limb, small portions of the neck

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