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Pulmonary vein

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Title: Pulmonary vein  
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Subject: Vein, Circulatory system, VATS lobectomy, Blood vessel, Heart
Collection: Veins of the Torso
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Pulmonary vein

Pulmonary Veins
Diagram of the alveoli with both cross-section and external view.
Latin venae pulmonales
Precursor truncus arteriosus
Drains from
Drains to
left atrium
pulmonary artery
MeSH A07.231.908.713
Anatomical terminology

The pulmonary veins are large blood vessels that receive oxygenated blood from the lungs and drain into the left atrium of the heart. There are four pulmonary veins, two from each lung. The pulmonary veins are among the few veins that carry oxygenated blood.


  • Structure 1
    • Variation 1.1
    • Development 1.2
  • Function 2
  • Clinical significance 3
  • Additional images 4
  • References 5
  • See also 6
  • External links 7


Two pulmonary veins emerge from each lung hilum, receiving blood from three or four bronchial veins apiece and draining into the left atrium. An inferior and superior vein drains each lung, so there are four veins in total.[1] The veins are fixed to the pericardium. The pulmonary veins travel alongside the pulmonary arteries[2]

At the root of the lung, the right superior pulmonary vein lies in front of and a little below the pulmonary artery; the inferior is situated at the lowest part of the lung hilum. Behind the pulmonary artery is the bronchus.[2]

The right pulmonary veins (contains oxygenated blood) pass behind the right atrium and superior vena cava; the left in front of the descending thoracic aorta.


Occasionally the three veins on the right side remain separate, and not infrequently the two left pulmonary veins end by a common opening into the left atrium. Therefore, the number of pulmonary veins opening into the left atrium can vary between three and five in the healthy population.

The two left pulmonary veins may be united as a single pulmonary vein in about 25% of people; the two right veins may be united in about 3%.[2]



The pulmonary veins play an essential role in respiration, by receiving blood that has been oxygenated in the alveoli.

Clinical significance

As part of the pulmonary circulation they carry oxygenated blood back to the heart, as opposed to the veins of the systemic circulation which carry deoxygenated blood.

When the pulmonary veins drain into the systemic circulation in whole or in part, this is known as a total anomalous pulmonary venous circulation or partial anomalous pulmonary circulation, respectively.

Additional images


This article incorporates text in the public domain from the 20th edition of Gray's Anatomy (1918)

  1. ^ Drake, Richard L.; Vogl, Wayne; Tibbitts, Adam W.M. Mitchell; illustrations by Richard; Richardson, Paul (2005). Gray's anatomy for students (Pbk. ed.). Philadelphia: Elsevier/Churchill Livingstone.  
  2. ^ a b c Skandalakis, editor in chief John E. (2004). "Chapter 7. Pericardium, Heart, and Great Vessels in the Thorax". Skandalakis' surgical anatomy : the embryologic and anatomic basis of modern surgery. Athens, Greece: PMP. pp. section titled 'Pulmonary veins'.  

See also

External links

  • Anatomy figure: 19:05-08 at Human Anatomy Online, SUNY Downstate Medical Center
  • Illustration at
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