Basilic vein

The basilic vein, along with the cephalic vein, is one of the primary superficial veins that drain the upper limb 1. It courses through both the forearm and arm, and contributes to the formation of the axillary vein.


  • origin: ulnar aspect of the superficial venous network of the dorsum of the hand
  • location: courses upwards on the medial aspect of the forearm and arm
  • drainage: palm of the hand, medial aspect of the forearm and arm
  • tributaries: median cubital vein and median antebrachial vein

Gross anatomy


The basilic vein arises from the ulnar side of the superficial venous network of the dorsum of the hand 2.


From the ulnar aspect of the superficial venous network, the basilic vein ascends posteromedially in the forearm towards the anterior elbow region to pass anterior to the medial epicondyle of the humerus 1,3. In the brachium it continues to ascend anteromedially until it penetrates the brachial fascia at the basilic hiatus, halfway between the elbow and axilla 2,3. The basilic vein then courses medial to the brachial artery until it unites with the brachial veins in the axilla to form the axillary vein 1,4.


Superficial veins of the upper limb are highly variable and have multiple superficial tributaries which drain into them 5. Two such variable tributaries of the basilic vein include:

  • the median cubital vein
    • connects the basilic vein to the cephalic vein in the anterior aspect of the cubital fossa 1,3.
    • it is a common site for venipuncture 5.   
  • the median antebrachial vein
    • arises from the palmar venous plexus on the palm of the hand, which drains the palmar digital veins. It courses anteriorly in the forearm and drains the subcutaneous tissue of the anterior wrist and forearm 2.
    • it terminates into the basilic or median cubital veins (1,3).
    • in some cases the median antebrachial vein divides into median cephalic and median basilic veins at the elbow, which then drain into the cephalic and basilic veins respectively 2.

The basilic vein terminates by uniting with the paired brachial veins to form the axillary vein at the inferior border of the teres major muscle 4.


The basilic vein drains the medial side of the superficial venous network of the dorsum of the hand, which in turn drains blood from the palm of the hand 2. As it ascends in the forearm and arm, the basilic veins drains the medial aspect of the upper limbs via numerous superficial veins 1.

Anatomy: Upper limb
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Article information

rID: 51651
System: Vascular
Section: Anatomy
Synonyms or Alternate Spellings:
  • Basilic veins

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Cases and figures

  • Figure 1
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  • Figure 2; superficial veins of the upper limb (Gray's illustration)
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