Double-Sided Superior Vena Cava: Developmental Considerations Associated with the Thymic Veins

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Keiko Ogami-Takamura; Kazunobu Saiki; Daisuke Endo; Kiyohito Murai; Keita Nishi & Toshiyuki Tsurumoto


The superior vena cava is usually located only on the right side, but persistence of the left superior vena cavais observed in about 0.3 to 0.5 % of adults. A routine dissection of the cadaver of a 91-year-old Japanese female, whose cause of death was sepsis due to cholecystitis, was performed at Nagasaki University and revealed a double-sided superior vena cava. On the right side, the superior vena cava opened to the right atrium, while on the left, it opened into the extended coronary sinus. Veins in the left head, neck and upper limb regions joined to form the persistent left superior vena cava, with eventual drainage into the expanded coronary vein. An anastomosing branch occurred between each superior vena cava, and two thymic veins opened to the anastomosing branch. The azygos vein in the azygos venous system opened into the right superior vena cava, whereas a hemi-azygos vein opened into the azygos vein. The accessory hemi-azygos vein also opened into the azygos vein and opened cranially into the left superior vena cava. The left supreme intercostal vein also opened into the left superior vena cava. Several studies have reported a persistent left superior vena cava and the various considerations for its occurrence. Here, we propose a new hypothesis for the embryonic development of the persistent left superior vena cava with the thymic vein. This hypothesis essentially states that the left brachiocephalic vein fails to mature due to inadequate venous return from the thymic vein during the embryonic period, and the left superior vena cava then remains to maintain venous return from the left head, neck and upper limb. We also discuss the clinical significance of the persistent left superior vena cava.

KEY WORDS: Persistent left superior vena cava; Thymic vein; Azygos venous system; Anatomical variation.

How to cite this article

OGAMI-TAKAMURA, K. ; SAIKI, K.; ENDO, D.; MURAI, K.; NISHI, K. & TSURUMOTO, T. Double-sided superior vena cava: developmental considerations associated with the thymic veins. Int. J. Morphol., 40(1):24-29, 2022.