What Is a Saphenous Vein?
The saphenous veins are the two major veins that run up the legs. These are superficial veins, meaning that they are close to the surface of the skin, above the muscle layer, and just below the surface skin tissue, classifying them as subcutaneous veins.
According to Wheeless’ Textbook of Orthopedics, saphenous veins are in the top five most important venous structures of the leg.
Saphenous veins operate like all bodily veins, with the primary function of carrying deoxygenated blood back up to the heart (versus arteries, which carry blood away from the heart to the rest of the body).
The Greater Saphenous Vein
The greater saphenous vein, also called the large saphenous vein, runs from the foot all the way up the inner side of the leg to the saphenous opening, an oval opening in the thigh and a membrane through which the greater saphenous vein passes. This vein empties into the femoral vein.
The Lesser Saphenous Vein
The lesser saphenous vein, also known as the small saphenous vein, starts behind a bony protuberance on the outer part of the ankle, called the outer malleolus. It continues up the back of the leg, joining with the popliteal vein, located in the back of the knee.
The greater saphenous vein is the preferred conduit of vascular surgeons, due to its quality of openness. It is often used for peripheral arterial bypass surgeries. It is also used by cardiac surgeons for transplantation during coronary artery bypass surgery, particularly in triple or quadruple bypasses.