The superior ophthalmic vein: delineation with high-resolution magnetic resonance imaging

Surg Radiol Anat. 2015 Jan;37(1):75-80. doi: 10.1007/s00276-014-1321-7. Epub 2014 Jun 15.


Objective: To delineate the superior ophthalmic vein (SOV) with high-resolution magnetic resonance (MR) imaging.

Methods: This retrospective study enrolled 302 consecutive outpatients, 101 patients, 51 males and 50 females, who underwent coronal T2-weighted imaging and 201 patients, 99 males and 102 females, who underwent three-dimensional (3D) phase-contrast (PC) MR angiography.

Results: Coronal T2-weighted imaging clearly delineated the intraorbital course of SOV on serial images in all 101 subjects. The SOV could be topographically divided into three segments in relation to the superior rectus muscle. The SOV crossed over the optic nerve at the level of the anterior ethmoidal foramina in 87% of right orbits and 71% of left orbits. The mean outer diameter of the SOV at the crossing point was 1.7 mm on both sides, but the SOVs were asymmetric in the same individual in 75% of the subjects. 3D PC MR angiography showed that the bilateral SOVs were symmetrical in 16% of subjects, larger in the right orbit in 18%, and larger in the left orbit in 13%, and were unidentified in 52%. The SOV showed a consistent lateral course to the ophthalmic artery.

Conclusions: The SOV consistently courses lateral to the ophthalmic artery, but tends to show bilateral asymmetry in the outer diameter. The superior rectus muscle, anterior ethmoidal foramen, and anterior ethmoidal artery are valuable landmarks to identify the SOV during transcranial orbital surgery. Combination of high-resolution MR imaging and 3D PC MR angiography is useful for delineating the SOV.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Anatomic Variation
  • Child
  • Eye / blood supply*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Angiography
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Ophthalmic Artery / anatomy & histology
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Veins
  • Young Adult