Median Cubital & Antebrachial Veins: Locations & Functions

Instructor: Ian Lord

Ian is a real estate investor, MBA, former health professions educator, and Air Force veteran.

The veins of the arm provide convenient access to the bloodstream for a variety of medical uses. In this lesson we will review the location and medical functions of the median cubital and median antebrachial veins of the arm.

Veins of the Arm

As a nurse, Mary needs to gain access to a patient's bloodstream to draw blood as well as administer medication and fluids. She remembers the difference between arteries and veins -- while arteries distribute oxygenated blood to the body, veins return deoxygenated blood back to the heart.

The median cubital vein and median antebrachial veins offer easy and convenient placement for blood collection kits and intravenous catheters. Let's review with Mary the location of these veins and some of the specific procedures that involve the veins.

Veins of the arm.
Veins of the Arm

Median Cubital Vein

The median cubital vein, also known as the median basilic vein, is located in the triangular area inside the elbow. If you lay your hand down palm up on a desk, you'll see the underside of your elbow. Right in the crease there you'll see right where this vein runs through.

The median cubital vein is in the crook of the elbow
elbow veins

Medial or median are the anatomical terms that tells us this vein is close to the center of the arm as opposed to the side of the arm (lateral). It is a superficial vein, meaning that it lies close to the skin. It connects the basilic and cephalic veins. The exact position of the vein within the triangular patch area inside the elbow known at the cubital fossa can vary from a H-shape to an M-shape depending on the individual person.

This provides an excellent site for Mary to draw blood, called venipuncture techniques. Venipuncture involves the collection of blood for purposes such as lab analysis, donation, or testing for drugs or alcohol. This is typically accomplished with special needle kits designed to connect to vacuum tubes, but can also be accomplished with a needle and syringe.

Median Antebrachial Vein

Located in the ulnar side of the forearm, that is to say on the same side of the arm as a person's palm of the hand, the median antebrachial vein runs along the length of the forearm. Smaller superficial veins branch off from the median antebrachial vein down to the palm and also around to the back of the forearm.

The median antebrachial vein is lower down on the forearm.
antebrachial vein

The site is well suited for placing an intravenous (IV) catheter, which is a tube placed in the vein with the aid of a needle which can be kept in place for some time. The tube has a port on the end that can be connected to fluid bags for rehydration, nutrition, and medication delivery directly into the bloodstream.

If you've ever felt extreme thirst, you might have experienced the first stage of dehydration. In severe cases, like if you were to be stuck in a desert with no water for days, you would need to be rehydrated quickly. Hospitals would use an IV to deliver fluids straight into your veins, a faster way to rehydrate than just drinking a bunch of water.

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