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Inferior vena cava

Other Terms: Posterior vena cava, Vena cava inferior, Veine cave inférieure


The inferior vena cava is larger than the superior vena cava. It is directed upward and medialward at the lower part of the auricle. Here it hugs the diaphragm. The direction of the current is toward the atrial septum. The inferior vena cava assists in holding the liver in place because it passes nearly vertically upward in a groove on the posterior surface of the liver for a distance of about six centimeters (two and a-half inches). It is firmly adherent to the hepatic tissue. The inferior vena cava is firmly attached to the liver by hepatic veins and by fibrous tissue. The inferior vena cava collects the blood from the lower extremities and the trunk below the diaphragm, except from the alimentary tract, the pancreas, and the spleen, which passes through the liver by the portal vein and its tributaries. The hepatic vein, which later collects this blood, also empties into the inferior vena cava. It is the largest venous trunk in the body. It is formed by the union of the two common iliac veins in front of the right side of the body of the fifth lumbar vertebra about two and a half centimeters (one inch) to the right of the median plane. In its ascent, it lies upon the bodies of the lower three lumbar vertebrae, the right lumbar and renal arteries, and the right crus of the diaphragm, by which it is separated from the aorta. It passes through the caval opening in the diaphragm opposite the eighth thoracic vertebra, pierces the pericardium and immediately enters the right atrium of the heart. In its upward course it receives the lumbar, the right testicular or ovarian, the renaI, the right phrenic, the right suprarenal, and the hepatic veins. To the left of it lies the aorta, from which it is separated above by the right crus of the diaphragm. In front of it are the mesentery, the right testicular artery, the transverse duodenum, the pancreas, the portal vein, the hepatic artery, and the liver, which partly encircles it. The veins tributary to the inferior vena cava generally follows the same course as the corresponding arteries. Because of the position of the inferior vena cava to the right of the media n line, the veins entering it from the left are longer than those from the right side. Because the aorta is on the left side of the median line, the arteries arising from the right side are longer than those from the left. The inferior vena cava sometimes lies upon the left of the aorta, and crosses to the right above the level of the renal veins. The anterior abdominal relations of the inferior vena cava are as follows: the liver; the epiploic foramen with the free edge of the lesser omentum containing the portal vein, the common bile duct and the hepatic artery; the first portion of the duodenum, which is separated from the inferior vena cava by the portal vein, the common duct and the gastroduodenal artery; the head of the pancreas; the right portion of the duodenum; the posterior parietal peritoneum with the right colic and ileo-colic vessels; the root of the mesentery with the superior mesenteric vessels, and the right common iliac vessels.


Vena cava inferior


Veine cave inférieure


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