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Hepatic Veins

Last Updated: Jul 12, 2022

The hepatic veins are a group of veins that connect the liver to the inferior vena cava. Unlike the similarly-named hepatic portal veins that provide deoxygenated blood from the digestive organs to the liver, the hepatic veins carry deoxygenated blood away from the liver and back toward the heart.

Anatomy

The hepatic veins are a group of several veins arising from the liver’s posterior side. Each vein is formed from the union of many central veins arising in the hepatic lobes, which, in turn, are connected to many hepatic sinuses in the liver. The right hepatic vein arises from segments 5, 6, 7, and 8 in the right lobe of the liver and runs superiorly, posteriorly, and medially to terminate on the right side of the inferior vena cava. Medial to the right hepatic vein is the middle hepatic vein, which arises from segments 4, 5, and 8 in the right lobe of the liver. It travels superiorly and posteriorly to the inferior vena cava. The left hepatic vein arises from segments 2 and 3 of the left lobe of the liver and segment 4 of the right lobe and travels superiorly, posteriorly, and medially to the inferior vena cava. Finally, the caudate lobe of the liver has its own set of much smaller hepatic veins that travel posteriorly to the inferior vena cava.

Physiology

The hepatic veins act as blood delivery conduits, returning deoxygenated blood from the liver to the heart. Oxygenated blood is delivered to the liver by the hepatic artery, while the hepatic portal vein delivers nutrient-rich blood from the digestive organs to the liver. The liver plays several vital roles in the body by removing toxins from the blood, storing minerals and glucose, and turning fats and proteins into glucose. After blood passes through the liver for processing, it must return to the heart for distribution around the human body to provide essential nutrients to the body’s tissues.