The Inferior Vena Cava


Related Posts:

Source: OpenStax Anatomy and Physiology

OpenStax Anatomy and Physiology

Other than the small amount of blood drained by the azygos and hemiazygos veins, most of the blood inferior to the diaphragm drains into the inferior vena cava before it is returned to the heart. Lying just beneath the parietal peritoneum in the abdominal cavity, the inferior vena cava parallels the abdominal aorta, where it can receive blood from abdominal veins. The lumbar portions of the abdominal wall and spinal cord are drained by a series of lumbar veins, usually four on each side. The ascending lumbar veins drain into either the azygos vein on the right or the hemiazygos vein on the left, and return to the superior vena cava. The remaining lumbar veins drain directly into the inferior vena cava.

Blood supply from the kidneys flows into each renal vein, normally the largest veins entering the inferior vena cava. A number of other, smaller veins empty into the left renal vein. Each adrenal vein drains the adrenal or suprarenal glands located immediately superior to the kidneys. The right adrenal vein enters the inferior vena cava directly, whereas the left adrenal vein enters the left renal vein.

From the male reproductive organs, each testicular vein flows from the scrotum, forming a portion of the spermatic cord. Each ovarian vein drains an ovary in females. Each of these veins is generically called a gonadal vein. The right gonadal vein empties directly into the inferior vena cava, and the left gonadal vein empties into the left renal vein.

Each side of the diaphragm drains into a phrenic vein; the right phrenic vein empties directly into the inferior vena cava, whereas the left phrenic vein empties into the left renal vein. Blood supply from the liver drains into each hepatic vein and directly into the inferior vena cava. Since the inferior vena cava lies primarily to the right of the vertebral column and aorta, the left renal vein is longer, as are the left phrenic, adrenal, and gonadal veins. The longer length of the left renal vein makes the left kidney the primary target of surgeons removing this organ for donation.


Betts, J. G., Young, K. A., Wise, J. A., Johnson, E., Poe, B., Kruse, D. H., … DeSaix, P. (n.d.). Anatomy and Physiology. Houston, Texas: OpenStax. Access for free at: