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Veins of the vertebral column

Learning objectives

On completion of this study unit, you will be able to:

  1. Identify the venous drainage pattern of an individual vertebra. 
  2. Identify the main collecting veins of each vertebral region.

Watch video

Although the vertebral column extends from the base of the cranium all the way to the pelvic girdle, its venous drainage remains relatively similar throughout its entirety. Similar intricate networks of vessels drain each vertebra. The main difference lies in their collecting veins, the small vessels empty into, which can vary between each vertebral region. 

Vertebrae are drained by four venous plexuses: anterior external, anterior internal, posterior internal and posterior external vertebral venous plexuses. These plexuses communicate with each other through the intervertebral foramina and drain the external and internal regions of each vertebra.

Intervertebral veins drain the vertebral venous plexuses and travel through the intervertebral foramina to empty into the vertebral veins of the neck, the intercostal veins of the thorax, the lumbar veins of the lumbar region and the sacral veins of the sacral region. 

Find out more about the veins of the vertebral column by watching the video below.

Take a quiz

That was a lot of veins to remember! Time to consolidate all of that knowledge with a quiz.

For a broader range of topics try out the fully customizable quiz on the anatomy of the vertebral column. You can even save your selections, so that you can quiz yourself later.

Browse atlas

Take a closer look at the veins of the vertebral column in the gallery below.


Key points about the veins of the vertebral column
Collecting veins by region Cervical: Vertebral veins
Thoracic: Intercostal veins
Lumbar: Lumbar veins -> Ascending lumbar veins
Sacrum: Sacral veins
Veins of isolated vertebra Anterior and posterior external vertebral venous plexuses, anterior and posterior internal vertebral venous plexuses, basivertebral veins, intervertebral veins

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