What is the Basilic Vein?

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  • Written By: Christine Hudson
  • Edited By: Lauren Fritsky
  • Last Modified Date: 10 December 2019
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The basilic vein is a large vein in the upper arm known as a superficial vein. Superficial is a term used to classify veins which are close to the surface of the skin. This vein is close enough to the skin that for most of its length, it is actually visible. It begins on the top of the hand and then reaches around to the underarm until it joins the cephalic vein, another superficial vein located in the arm.

This vein circulates blood to and from parts of the hand and forearm. Mostly the basilic vein allows blood drainage from these parts of the body, allowing the used blood to return to the heart to be oxygenated. The basilic vein travels up and meets the cephalic vein near the elbow, which eventually drains and carries large portions of blood from the limbs to the heart.

A common ailment of the basilic vein is basilic vein thrombrosis (BVT). This condition occurs when a fairly large blood clot forms in the vein. This may cause swelling in the arm or face, pain in the neck or shoulder, and fever. This condition may be serious, and it is normally recommended that it be treated promptly. If the clot formed in this vein travels to the lungs or heart, it may cause death. This situation may happen due to many factors or ailments, including high blood pressure or medication side effects.


Treatment options for BVT usually include anticoagulation drugs, thrombolytics, and even surgery. Anticoagulation drugs, also known as blood thinners, help prevent the clot from gaining size, while thrombolytics actually dissolve the clot. Surgery is usually an option only in extreme cases, and many times the most common procedure involves implanting a filter to prevent the clot from traveling into the heart or lungs. Home treatment involving bed rest and a compressed arm sleeve may be options in very mild cases of BVT.

A medical professional can usually detect basilic vein thrombosis in several different ways. One common way is through sonographic images of the vein. When the basilic vein is clear and operating properly, the hands and forearm are adequately drained. If the vein is blocked, the use of these body parts may be impaired, or other symptoms may be present. It is usually important for individuals to see a doctor quickly if symptoms are present, as delay may cause much more serious conditions.


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Post 2

I knew a former minor league baseball player that developed a bad case of BVT. He lived across the street from me about a decade ago and one day I saw him with a big bandage around his arm. I asked what had happened and he told me that he had developed BVT and that he thought it was related to his baseball playing.

His developed so far that he actually had to get surgery. I hadn't seen him for a while but he told me that his arm had swollen up significantly and that it became an unusual color. He had no idea he had any problems up until it became a big problem.

He was just fine after a few weeks but apparently he is still at risk. I always thought that was a crazy story. Too many trips to the plate and your forearm will blow up.

Post 1

I imagine that my dad had huge basilic veins. He was one of these guys that had really pronounced veins, especially in his forearms. He worked as a mechanic so his hands and lower arms got a lot of exercise. When he was working his forearms looked like a maze their were so many interconnecting veins bulging out. When I was a little kid it actually used to freak me out.

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