The azygos venous system is highly variable in terms of its origin, course, communications, tributaries and termination of the associated veins: this study aimed to classify these anatomical variations. Thirty Thiel-embalmed cadavers aged 48– 98 years (18 female, 12 male) were examined. The vertebral level of termination and diameter of the azygos, hemiazygos, accessory hemiazygos and the left superior intercostal veins were determined, as well as the termination level of the right superior intercostal vein. The azygos system was classified into 3 types; primitive (type 1), transitional (type 2) and unicolumnar (type 3). Type 2 was further divided into 5 subgroups (A to E) according to the number of retroaortic communications. Type one was observed in 3 % (n=1), type 2 in 87 % (n=26) and type 3 in 10 % (n=3) of specimens. The vertebral level of termination of the azygos, hemiazygos, accessory hemiazygos, right superior intercostal and left superior intercostal veins were between T2 and T3, T6 and T10, T5 and T9, T2 and T4, and T2 and T4 respectively. Identification and understanding these variations are important during preoperative radiological investigations and surgical procedures, especially spinal surgery between T7 and T12 using a left thoracotomy approach, to avoid injuries which may lead to postoperative hematomas.
KEY WORDS: Azygos; Hemiazygos; Retroaortic communications; Thiel-embalmed cadavers; Variations.