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Superficial veins of the brain

Learning objectives

This study unit will help you to:

  1. Identify the main superficial cerebral veins and their tributaries. 
  2. Appreciate the origin and course of the main superficial cerebral veins. 
  3. Learn about the venous drainage of each area of the brain.

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The brain is an especially well-perfused organ, accommodating approximately twenty percent of cardiac output. The cerebral veins function to drain the capillary networks that facilitate the exchange of oxygen, nutrients, metabolic waste and other compounds towards the extracranial venous circulation via the internal jugular vein. This network of veins drains the entire brain parenchyma, as well as the surrounding structures (e.g. meninges, eyeballs and parts of the face). Structurally, the veins of the brain lack a muscular layer (tunica media), which allows them to expand and collapse substantially. 

There are 2 types of venous systems that drain the blood from the brain. These are the superficial (external) venous system and deep (internal) venous system. The superficial venous system primarily drains the grey matter of the brain, while the deep venous system drains the deep structures of the brain and the white matter of the cerebral hemispheres. Both sets of veins drain into the internal jugular vein via meningeal structures known as dural venous sinuses.

This video tutorial will provide you with an overview of the superficial veins of the brain.

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Browse atlas

Explore the veins of the brain in the gallery below. 


Key points about the superficial cerebral veins
Definition A network of venous blood vessels located on the superficial surface of the brain that drain primarily the cerebral cortex
Location Subarachnoid space: Between arachnoid mater and pia mater
Superior cerebral veins Frontopolar vein, frontal veins, central vein, parietal veins, occipital veins
Superficial middle cerebral vein (of Sylvius) Frontal veins, parietal veins, temporal veins, superior anastomotic vein (of Trolard), inferior anastomotic vein (of Labbé)
Inferior cerebral veins Orbitofrontal veins, vein of uncus, temporal veins, occipital veins

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