Common Veins used for IV Therapy

IV therapy is a complex nursing treatment that most patients in an acute care setting have at one time or another during their hospital stay. Although the technique of actually “placing” an IV is one that needs practice, the theory behind IV placement and management is didactic in nature and can be covered in a module such as this. The importance of correctly identifying veins, catheter selection, dressings, and potential complications are all issue that nurses face on a daily basis.


The names and anatomical location of the most commonly accessed veins of the upper extremity are listed below.

Basilic Vein:

The largest arm vein of the upper extremity. It courses along is along the medial (ulnar) aspect of the arm from wrist to shoulder. It begins at the dorsum of the hand, crosses the elbow and drains into the brachial vein.

Cephalic Vein :

This vein runs along the lateral (radial) aspect of the arm also from the wrist to shoulder and empties into the axillary vein. Although the basilic vein is larger, the cephalic vein is more superficial and easier to access.

Median Vein:

Forms a Y just below the elbow and drains into both the basilic and cephalic veins.

Median Antecubital Vein:

Oblique coursing vein at the elbow that joins the basilic and cephalic veins.

Deep Forearm Vein:

These are 2 or 3 veins each that course with and are named like the corresponding arteries of the forearm (radial & ulna).


These veins are the deep veins of the upper arm, usually paired and smaller than the superficial veins. They travel in the upper arm parallel to (on either side) the brachial artery and join with the basilic vein to form the axillary vein.

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