Anatomy of Leg Veins
The veins carry blood from the periphery back to the heart. Human beings are bipedal and so unlike some of our smaller four-legged friends, blood has to be propelled up a vertical column a height of 3 - 4 feet from our feet to the right atrium of the heart. In the legs most of the blood travels via the large major veins which are situated in the deep areas of the limb. These account for 95% of the venous return. The superficial veins, the ones that we can see just under the skin and the ones responsible for the unsightliness of varicose veins, carry the rest and ultimately join the deep system at two main points in the groin and behind the knee. There are other interconnecting veins called perforators in the calf and thigh which join the deep and superficial systems together.

The deep system comprises of:

  • The soleal sinusoids
  • The tibial veins
  • The popliteal vein
  • The femoral vein

The diagram shows a basic outline of the deep system. The dotted lines represent the areas where the superficial veins join it.

The superficial system comprises of:

  • Dorsal venous foot arch
  • The great saphenous vein (previously long saphenous)
  • The small saphenous vein (previously short sapheonus)
  • The posterior arch vein
  • The perforator veins
  • Giaccomini vein
  • Other tributaries

The above list is in no way comprehensive but represents the important veins involved in common venous problems such as varicose veins, ulcers and deep vein thrombosis.

Veins, unlike arteries, contain one way valves at intervals which are vital for the veins to function normally. How veins work is explained on the next page.