Vena cava

The upper and lower vena cava are the largest veins in the body. Read more about her anatomy and function!

Vena cava

The upper and lower vena cava (Vena cava superior, inferior vena cava) are the two largest veins in the human body. They collect oxygen-poor blood from the body periphery and direct it back to the heart, more specifically to the right atrium. Here you will learn everything important about the paired vena cava!

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vena cava

  • What is the vena cava?

  • Upper vena cava

  • Lower vena cava

  • Central Venous Catheter (ZVK)

  • Diseases around the vena cava

What is the vena cava?

The upper and lower vena cava (superior vena cava and inferior v. C.), With a diameter of about two centimeters, are among the thickest veins in the body. They have - unlike the veins of the extremities - no venous valves, which prevent a reflux of the blood. The two veins carry low-oxygen, carbon dioxide-rich blood from the body periphery back to the right heart, from where it is pumped further into the lungs to absorb new oxygen and release carbon dioxide.

The name vena cava is due to the fact that the central veins in a corpse do not contain blood, so inside are hollow (lat.: cava).

Upper vena cava

The superior vena cava (vena cava superior) collects venous, deoxygenated blood from the veins of the head and neck and upper extremities, and brings it back to the heart. It is about five to six inches long and runs along the right edge of the breastbone.

High blood pressure can be dangerous. See here how you can measure the values โ€‹โ€‹yourself.

Lower vena cava

The inferior vena cava (vena cava inferior) brings venous blood from the abdomen, pelvis and legs to the heart. It runs to the right of the main artery (aorta) and passes through the diaphragm. It begins at the confluence of the right and left pelvic veins (which bring the venous blood from the legs) and has in the further course inflows of the pelvic and abdominal organs: The venous blood from the unpaired abdominal organs (such as stomach, intestine, pancreas) is on the portal vein first transported to the liver before it is injected into the inferior vena cava. The venous blood of the other organs in the abdomen and pelvic area (such as the kidneys, testes and ovaries) opens directly into the inferior vena cava.

Central Venous Catheter (ZVK)

Due to their thickness and the fact that both vena cava open into the right heart, a cardiac catheter (central venous catheter, CVC) can be pushed through a vena cava into the right atrium. In this way, the venous blood pressure within the vein can be measured, which doctors call central venous pressure. It is normal at a maximum of 15 mmHg, but is subject to respiratory and pulse-related but large fluctuations and can, for example, in a pulmonary embolus increase sharply.

However, a central venous catheter is not used for venous pressure measurement - medication or infusions can also be administered via the thin plastic tube.

Diseases around the vena cava

In pregnant women, especially in the supine position, the heavy uterus can press on the inferior vena cava, restricting blood flow back to the heart. This vena cava compression syndrome (vena cava syndrome) triggers tachycardia, drop in blood pressure, nausea and sweating and may also endanger the unborn child's oxygen supply.

In addition, constrictions (stenosis), malformations, injuries as well as benign and malignant neoplasms of the vena cava cause health problems.


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