Mapping of superficial extremity veins: normal diameters and trends in a vascular patient-population

Ultrasound Med Biol. 2012 Feb;38(2):190-4. doi: 10.1016/j.ultrasmedbio.2011.11.008.


Ultrasonic measurement of superficial extremity veins is a common procedure. To establish normal values for vein-size in a population of vascular patients and to assess if measurements remain unchanged over time, we analyzed a database with results of 28,130 measurements in 2420 separate saphenous and 3206 cephalic veins. Mean size of the great saphenous vein ranges from 2.3 mm to 4.4 mm but did not follow a tapering pattern as is often assumed. The distal calf segment is smaller than the ankle segment. The mean cephalic vein size in the upper arm (2.4 mm) was smaller than at the antecubital level (2.7 mm). A decrease in vein diameter over time was noted in many locations and this reached statistical significance (p < 0.005 for the thigh segment). The clinical significance of this is a need to repeat ultrasonic vein-mapping if more than a year elapses between ultrasound and surgical vein harvest.

MeSH terms

  • Extremities / blood supply*
  • Extremities / diagnostic imaging*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Minnesota
  • Reference Values
  • Ultrasonography / statistics & numerical data*
  • Veins / diagnostic imaging*