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Although most veins take blood back to the heart, there is an exception.

Portal veins carry blood between capillary beds. For example, the hepatic portal vein takes blood from the capillary beds in the digestive tract and transports it to the capillary beds in the liver. The blood is then drained in the gastrointestinal tract and spleen, where it is taken up by the hepatic veins, and blood is taken back into the heart. Since this is an important function in mammals, damage to the hepatic portal vein can be dangerous. Blood clotting in the hepatic portal vein can cause portal hypertension, which results in a decrease of blood fluid to the liver. Also transports proteins and other materials throughout the body.


Image of veins from William Harvey's De Motu Cordis et Sanguinis, 1628 Veins are classified in a number of ways, including superficial vs. deep, pulmonary vs. systemic, and large vs. small. Superficial veins Superficial veins are those whose course is close to the surface of the body, and have no corresponding arteries. Deep veins Deep veins are deeper in the body and have corresponding arteries. Communicating veins Communicating veins (or perforator veins) are veins that directly connect superficial veins to deep veins. Pulmonary veins The pulmonary veins are a set of veins that deliver oxygenated blood from the lungs to the heart. Systemic veins Systemic veins drain the tissues of the body and deliver deoxygenated blood to the heart.

Clinical significance

Venous valves prevent reverse blood flow. Phlebology is the medical discipline that involves the diagnosis and treatment of disorders of venous origin. Diagnostic techniques used include the history and physical examination, venous imaging techniques and laboratory evaluation related to venous thromboembolism. The American Medical Association has added phlebology to their list of self-designated practice specialties. A medical specialist in Phlebology is termed a Phlebologist. A related image is called a phlebography

Video of venous valve in action The American College of Phlebology (ACP) is the largest professional organization in the world dedicated to Phlebology. It is composed of physicians and healthcare professionals from a variety of medical backgrounds and holds an Annual Scientific Congress as well as many symposia that educate and train practitioners in this field in order to enhance the quality of patient care. ACP meetings are conducted to facilitate learning and sharing of knowledge regarding venous disease. The equivalent body for countries in the Pacific is the Australasian College of Phlebology, active in Australia and New Zealand. The American Venous Forum (AVF) is the leading academic international consortium of venous and lymphatic specialists dedicated to improving patient care. Research in clinical and basic sciences is reported at the AVF annual meetings, along with the reports on new developments in diagnosis and treatment of venous diseases. The main body of the AVF consists of vascular surgeons and other physicians who specialized in management of not only simple varicose veins but the whole spectrum of venous and lymphatic diseases from congenital abnormalities to deep vein thrombosis to chronic venous diseases.