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Terminology, Images and Explanations

If you don’t work in the medical field, medical terminology can be difficult to understand. So, the ACP has put together a list of some common terms  and images you may come across in your research on vein disorders.

Anatomical Vein Terms

Terms for Functions of Veins

Anatomical Images and Explanations

Anatomical Vein Terms

Anterior
The front of a body part.

Posterior
Back of a body part.

Deep Leg Vein
The veins that are deep in the thigh and leg that carry blood back to the heart.

Connective Tissue
This strong tissue is the white tissue that covers muscle.

Great Saphenous Vein
(sometimes called GSV or long saphenous vein) A long vein that can be seen just in front of the anklebone. This vein travels along the inside of the leg and thigh (about one-half inch beneath the skin in the thigh) until it empties into the deep vein called the common femoral vein in the groin.

Perforating Vein
A vein that passes directly from a superficial vein to a deep vein.

Popliteal Vein
The deep vein located behind the knee. The small saphenous vein originates from the popliteal vein.

Small Saphenous Vein
(sometimes called SSV, Lesser Saphenous Vein, or LSV) A superficial vein that starts at the outside of the foot and travels up the back of the calf where it empties into the deep vein (popliteal vein) in the crease of the knee.

Spider Vein
A tiny varicose vein that may be blue or red color that does not protrude above the skin surface and frequently looks like a spider. Common medical terms you may hear for spider veins are telangiectasias and telangiectatic veins. Slightly larger varicose veins that do not protrude above the skin are called reticular veins.

Superficial Vein
Any vein in the lower extremity above the deep fascia that covers the muscles of the thigh and leg.

Varicose Vein
A bulging vein that protrudes past the skin surface and usually measures greater than one-fourth of an inch (6.4 mm) in diameter.

Terms for Functions of Veins

Competent Vein
Blood flow occurs in the proper direction back to the heart. Also referred to as Having No Reflux Or Normal Flow Direction.

Incompetent Vein
Blood flows in the wrong direction. Also referred to as a vein that has reflux.

Reflux
Blood that flows backward in the veins.

Anatomical Images and Explanations

Normal Blood Flow
After the blood has been replenished with oxygen in the lungs, it is pumped to the body by the heart. Blood that is pumped to the lower extremities is pumped back to the heart partially by the action of the calf muscle pump. The blood returning from the lower extremities in the deep and superficial veins goes past a series of one-way valves. These valves stop the blood from flowing backwards in the veins.

Reflux
The valves in the veins close just as blood begins to flow backwards. If the valves do not close properly, the blood falls backwards through the poorly closing or leaking valves. The veins downstream that are now unprotected by valves further upstream are exposed to the weight of an increasingly high column of blood. These downstream veins cannot endure the pressure of the column of blood and expand becoming snake-like in appearance. This causes the veins to bulge through the skin surface and become varicose veins.