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Hepatic portal system

Learning objectives: 

After completing this study unit you will be able to: 

  1. Identify the hepatic portal vein. 
  2. Name and identify the tributaries and branches of the hepatic portal system.
  3. Describe the course of the hepatic portal vein.

Watch videos

The hepatic portal system is responsible for the venous drainage of many structures within the abdomen. One of the most important structures of the portal system is the hepatic portal vein

The hepatic portal vein is formed by the union of the superior mesenteric and splenic veins and as a result receives nutrient-rich venous blood from the spleen, pancreas, gallbladder and upper parts of the gastrointestinal tract. 

It travels within the hepatoduodenal ligament, alongside the proper hepatic artery and bile duct to reach the porta hepatis of the liver. The hepatic portal vein functions to transport venous blood from regions within the abdomen to the sinusoids of the liver, where it can then be processed and filtered. Within the liver, filtered venous blood is received by the right, intermediate and left hepatic veins which empty into the inferior vena cava of the systemic venous system.

Watch the video below to find out more about the hepatic portal vein, its tributaries, branches and course!

Take a quiz

Try out a quiz below to help consolidate all of that information.

Want to challenge yourself even further? Why not take a fully customizable quiz on the neurovasculature and lymphatics of the whole abdomen. You can even save your selections and come back and quiz yourself later!

Browse atlas


Key points about hepatic portal system
Hepatic portal vein Branches: Anterior and posterior right branches of hepatic portal vein,
transverse and umbilical parts of left branch of hepatic portal vein

Superior mesenteric, splenic, posterior superior pancreaticoduodenal, cystic, paraumbilical and gastric veins

Course: Hepatoduodenal ligament → porta hepatis of liver
Superior mesenteric vein Tributaries: Jejunal, ileal, ileocolic, right and middle colic, right gastro-omental, and pancreaticoduodenal veins
Splenic vein Tributaries: Short gastric, left gastro-omental, inferior mesenteric and pancreatic veins

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