Cephalic Vein: Definition, Location and Anatomy, Accessory And Its Excellent Clinical Importance and Hazards.

Cephalic Vein Definition

Parallel to the skin, the cephalic vein is a visible vein in the upper arm. The name comes from the Latin “cephalicus” or the Greek “kephalikos,” which both imply “head.”

Veins constitute a complicated pathway which permits deoxygenated blood to be sent back to the heart from all the body’s tissues. The cephalic vein is one of numerous small veins that transport blood to larger veins in the lower extremities. The blood flow of the cephalic vein is directed from the hand to the shoulder (i.e., towards the heart).

Cephalic Vein Location and Anatomy

Together with the basilic vein, the cephalic vein is one of the two major veins in the upper hand. Its path from its beginning above the lower limb towards its outflow at the collarbone is seen here.

Hand and Lower Forearm

The dorsal venous complex, which consists of veins on the back of the arm, is a network of veins that gives rise to the cephalic vein. Due to the absence of subcutaneous fat in the region, this network is easily apparent in most individuals.

The cephalic vein originates at the lateral end of the dorsal venous archway, which is created by the connection of the dorsal metacarpal veins. Blood is supplied to the basilic and cephalic veins through the dorsal venous arch. The cephalic vein runs along the “thumb-side” of the forearm, while the basilic vein runs along the “pinky-side.”

Once forming at the rear of the arm, the cephalic vein passes the roof of the anatomical snuff container, which is a slight triangular depression in which the arm joins the wrist on the upper radial side (i.e., the thumb side). When you stretch your thumb out, the anatomical snuffbox gets its name from the fact that it was formerly a frequent place to put powdered tobacco (snuff) before inhaling it!

After crossing the anatomical snuffbox, the cephalic vein continues along the radial edge of the forearm in front of the elbow.


The cephalic vein connects to the basilic vein (the second primary vein in the arm) near the elbow through the median cuboidal vein. Blood is carried through the median cuboidal vein via the cephalic vein to the basilic vein. If you’re particularly skinny, it may be seen in the groove of your elbow joint!

Upper Arm

The cephalic vein subsequently runs down the lateral margin of the biceps brachii (commonly called the biceps). It passes superficially next to the lateral cutaneous nerve of the forearm (sometimes referred to as the lateral antebrachial cutaneous nerve). This nerve is the sensory branch of the musculocutaneous nerve, a branch of the brachial plexus. It regulates the anterior forearm muscles.

Finally, near the lower border of the pectoralis major muscle (also known as the “pecs” or “chest muscle”), the deep fascia is pierced by the cephalic vein. Follow the deltopectoral groove; it is a depression between both the pectoralis major (the pec) and deltoid muscles (the shoulder muscle). This channel is followed till the infraclavicular fossa is reached, a depression just below the collarbone.


The clavipectoral fascia is penetrated by the cephalic vein (a structure of connective tissue hidden beneath the pectoralis main muscle) in this groove (the infraclavicular fossa). It dumps the moving blood into the axillary vein’s initial section. As a result, the cephalic vein comes to an end here. Today, the axillary vein is known as the subclavian vein.

The brachiocephalic vein is formed when the subclavian vein joins the internal jugular vein. As in the upper chest, the brachiocephalic vein connects to its equivalent on the other part of the body (i.e., veins on the left and right sides converge). The superior vena cava is created once the brachiocephalic veins unite to create the superior vena cava, which distributes oxygenated blood directly to the heart.

Cephalic Vein Accessory

Just below the elbow, the auxiliary cephalic vein meets the cephalic vein. This vein has a wide range of anatomy. It may originate from the dorsal vein network or a small vein network on the rear of the forearm.

The Cephalic Vein’s Clinical Importance

Procedures in Medicine

Because the cephalic vein is rather big and typically seen via the skin, it might be an appealing candidate for venipuncture by healthcare providers. This is true for dogs as well! The most comfortable posture for the animal throughout the treatment is to collect blood from the cephalic vein in the canines.

In addition, permanent pacemaker leads are often implanted into the cephalic vein to maintain a sufficient heart beat. This is because the structure and placement of the deltopectoral groove are relatively stable across people, making it a dependable option.

Superficial Vein Thrombosis

SVT is the medical term for a blood clot that forms in a superficial vein (in contrast to deeper venous thrombosis, which is a blood clot in a deeper vein system). SVT is much less dangerous than DVT. Yet it may still result in consequences like pulmonary embolism.

SVT causes discomfort, redness, and edoema in the affected region. They most often affect the legs, although they may also affect the arms, especially the cephalic vein. Compression, increased physical exercise to limit inactive time, and anti-coagulant medicine are all used to treat the condition.


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  3. Drake, R. L., Vogl, W., & Mitchell, A. W. M. (2015). Gray’s Clinical Anatomy. In Gray’s Anatomy for Students. https://doi.org/10.1308/003588406X116873b
  4. Nguyen, J., & Duong, H. (2019). Anatomy, Shoulder and Upper Limb, Veins. In StatPearls. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/31536282
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