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Revista chilena de anatomía

Print version ISSN 0716-9868

Rev. chil. anat. vol.17 n.1 Temuco  1999 



* Sonia Lucy Molinari
* Marcílio Hubner de Miranda Neto
** Renato Paulo Chopard
*** Liberato João Alfonso DiDio


SUMMARY: We carried out this research with the purpose of studying the relations of the facial vein with adjacent structures. The right and left facial veins of 50 corpses were dissected under stereomicroscope and their relations to the neighbour structures were described. Segments of facial veins of 10 corpses were subjected to histological sections stained by the method of Weigert modified by van Gieson. The facial vein, in spite of its short course, undergoes major changes on its wall composition. It is also diversified in its relations of syntopy, relating to muscles, adipose tissue and glands, in addition to other tissues. We verified the presence of elastic and collagen fibers connecting the adventitia to the adjacent tissues, as well as forming a fibrous sheath around the facial vein, which most probably protects this vein against strains produced during the motion of the neighbouring structures. In this work it is also discussed the implications of the syntopy of the facial vein and the biodynamic requirements elicited by motion on the morphology and functioning of this vein.

KEY WORDS: 1. Collagen fiber; 2. Elastic fiber; 3. Facial vein; 4. Functional anatomy.


Venous drainage from different body segments is subject to many biodynamic factors which may help or prevent blood flow towards the central circulation.

The small thickness of the venous wall makes it easily deformable when compressions are imposed which could compromise blood flow on the vein's lumen.

If considering that veins, differently from arteries, do not have a pump which confers pressure and kinetic energy to the blood in its lumen, one understands why venous circulation may be compromised and involved in pathologic processes more frequently than arteries.

The relation of the venous wall with the adjacent tissues has a special meaning for its functioning; according to LANZ & WACHSMUTH (1938) the venous walls are related to the neighbouring through a network of connective fibers that penetrate for an indefinite length on the adventitia, forming a unanimous functional system. Also BARGMANN (1968) comments that the more peripheral networks of the adventitia compose a meshwork of wide angles, through which the venous walls are distended and attached to the neighbouring structures.

From this information, and from previous research where the course of the facial vein (MOLINARI et al., 1997) and its wall composition (MOLINARI et al., 1999) were studied, we carried out the present research with the aim of studying the relations of the facial vein with the adjacent structures at different sites of its course.


From 50 corpses of adult males, previously fixed in 10% formol solution, the right and left facial veins were dissected with the help of a stereomicroscope, from the region of the orbital part of the orbicular muscle of the eye to its discharge, whether on the jugular veins, or on venous trunks. Their courses, relations to neighbouring structures and features of the adjacent tissues were described, recorded and photographed.

Observations and photographic documentation were carried out with the help of stereomicroscope OPMI-1 (Zeiss) and Nikon camera N2020 with Medical Nikkor 110 mm lens.

Segments of facial veins of 10 corpses previously fixed in 10% formol solution were used for microscopic observations. Material undergone routine metodology for paraffin and paraplast inclusion. In each segment serial transverse and longitudinal sections of 10 and 15 µm were made, which were stained alternately and sequencely according to the method of Weigert modified by Van Gieson after oxydation in potassium permanganate (LILLIE & FULLMER, 1976).

Selected material for documentation was photographed on WILD M-20 photomicroscope and photographic equipment WILD MPS-51.


It was verified that the facial vein stablishes relations with the muscule fibers of the orbital part of the orbicular muscle of the eye and of the elevator muscle of the superior lip and nose wing, through connections of connective tissue which link its adventitia to the muscular fascia (Fig. 1). These connections are composed of bundles of elastic and collagen fibers which intermingle the adipose tissue around the vessel. At some sites, these bundles are gathered, forming tiny sheaths (Fig. 2).

Fig. 1 - Connection of the facial vein (F),
through connective tissue (arrows), with
the elevator muscle of the superior lip and
nose wing (L). 6x.
Fig. 2 - Transverse section of 15 µm of the facial vein
wall (F) and adjacent structures at the level of the
elevator muscle of the superior lip and nose wing.
Elastic sheath (B) and adipose tissue (T).
Weigert modified by van Gieson. Green filter. 44x.

Laterally to the nose wing, the facial vein courses below the major and minor zygomatic muscles, being separated from these and from the molar glands by adipose and connective tissue, the latter rich in bundles of collagen fibers and with few elastic ones.

On its course inside the adipose body of the mouth, the facial vein stablishes loose connections with the adipose tissue through bundles of collagen and elastic fibers linking the adventitia to the adjacent tissue (Fig. 3). It was observed the formation of a thin connective sheath among the adipose tissue. This sheath and the adventitia exhibits infiltration of adipose tissue.

Fig. 3 - Course of the facial vein (F) on the inside of the adipose body of the mouth. Bundles of collagen fibers (arrows). 10x.

Near the buccinator and masseter muscles, the adipose infiltration is less intense, there existing connections between the fasciae of these muscles and the adventitia of the facial vein.

At the level of the mandibular body, the facial vein becomes more superficial, coursing above the fascia of the masseter muscle; on this region it shows a thicker cover rich in collagen fibers and almost devoid of elastic ones (Fig. 4). It has less adipose infiltrations than the previously described regions. Numerous connections between the adventitia and the masseter fascia are observed.

Fig. 4 - Relation of the facial vein (F) with the masseter muscle (M). Connective sheath (B). 15x.

At this same level the facial vein is located near the facial artery (Fig. 5), but the periadventitial tissue, predominately of bundles of collagen fibers, forms an individual cover for each vessel (Fig. 6).

Fig. 5 - Anterior view of the head and neck
of right antimere, showing the relation of the
facial vein (V) with the facial artery (A).
Fig. 6 - Transverse section of 15 µm of the walls
of the facial vein (F) and facial artery (A).
Covers rich in collagen fibers (C). Weigert
modified by van Gieson. Blue filter. 44x.

Independently of the kind of relation mantained with the submandibular gland, the adventitial connective tissue of the facial vein is linked to the gland's capsule and also to the connective grids that come from the inside of it.

From the gland to its discharge, the facial vein courses through spaces among the muscle fasciae of the neck surrounded by adipose tissue.


The facial vein, in spite of its short course, receives several tributaries, enlarging progressively its diameter and changing the constitution of its wall (MOLINARI et al., 1997; MOLINARI et al., 1999).

Equally varied are the tissues surrounding it, such as muscles, adipose tissue, glands and limphonodes, and there are areas of great or low mobility to which the vascular wall must adapt.

In this sense, there would have special importance the curves made, such as, for instance, that siphon-like inside the adipose body of the mandibule, mainly when it is taken into account that soon below it will relate to the buccinator and masseter muscles, connecting to them through connective tissue. During motion of these and other muscles, the facial vein can be strained to follow their movements, having to change its curvature to widen its course, as during rinsing, lateralization, protrusion and lowering of the mandible. In these situations the connective grids linking its adventitia to the adjacent structures would allow its movement and, at the same time, would cooperate to keep its lumen open, once they are disposed over the whole vascular circunference. WHEATER et al. (1982) stress that the adventitia is the thickest layer of the venous wall and is composed of collagen fibers disposed longitudinally, prolonging the neighbouring connective tissue. DUBREUIL (1928), DUBREUIL & LACOSTE (1931) and DUBREUIL (1932) argue that the venous adventitia functions as a layer of resistance against distension, of sliding, adaptation to length changes and linking with nearby structures. Longitudinal and oblique collagen and elastic fibers intervene to assure permanent tension on the vascular walls during changes of position of adjacent structures which impose lenghtening or shortening of the vessel.

The presence of a fibrous-elastic sheath around the facial vein and the adipose tissue surrounding this sheath, often infiltrating its inside, would be similar to the multilaminated sliding tissue that according to LANG (1960) is found over vessels coursing under skin slightly capable of dislocation. The facial vein in its superficial course lacks this sliding tissue because the facial skin is quite mobile to accompany the contractions of the mimicry musculature. In its deep course, the sheath would facilitate its sliding during movements, at the same time protecting its delicate wall from excessive strains, once the adventitia links to the connective-elastic sheath, and this further connects to the adjacent tissues. The forces raised by the movement would act first on the sheath, being then transferred to the facial vein through bundles of collagen and elastic fibers which connect them. The presence of bundles of elastic and collagen fibers linking the adventitia to the periadventitial tissue as well as the biodynamic aspects resulting from this interrelationship were studied in different vessels and widely discussed on the work of GOERTTLER (1934/51), FERRAZ-DE-CARVALHO (1970), PIFFER et al. (1986), CHOPARD et al. (1994).

According to BARGMANN (1968) the structure of veins varies from a region to another. He mentions as one of the causes of this variation the diversity of mechanical requirements demanded by adjacent tissues. On the facial vein the wide motion of the head relative to the neck would make the adjacent tissues, from the mandibular level on, promote more intense mechanical requirements than on the initial segments, which would be reflected on its wall composition, whose terminal segment is rich in elastic fibers, an element that makes the vascular wall flexible and capable of distending when strained (MOLINARI et al., 1999). This distention would occur within the limits imposed by the networks of collagen bundles which, being related to the elastic fibers, prevent their excessive distension and possible rupture.

On the other hand the connections of the facial vein with connective grids from the inside of the submandibular gland would help on the positioning of the vein, offering it a fixation point on an area that can be strained both by the movements of the head and those of the neck.

The bundles of collagen fibers connecting the adventitia of the vessel with the periadventitial tissue (fibrous sheath and muscle fasciae and adipose tissue), together with the bundles of elastic fibers, would probably act in concert to allow the facial vein to follow the motion of the head and neck. The former, due to their arrangement and resistance, would take up and stand against the tensions elicited during movements, while the latter would be distended by muscle action, storing potential energy that could be used to restore the vessel's initial position.

MOLINARI et al. (1999) discuss that the presence of bundles of elastic fibers on the adventitia of the facial vein, in many orientations and forming a meshwork associated with that of collagen fibers and linked to the adjacent tissue, would permit the facial vein, to a certain limit imposed by the bundles of collagen fibers, in addition to slide, to enlarge its lumen when under strain exerted by the striated muscles with which it is related. Once the cause of tension comes to an end, the elastic meshwork passively retracts, returning to the initial caliber, and at the same time, helps to push the excess blood inside the vessel.

Based on the results described it is concluded that:

a) The facial vein relates to muscles, adipose tissue, glands and limphonodes, alternating areas of large and small mobility to which the venous wall must adapt through curvatures, connections with adjacent tissues and a fibrous sheath;

b) The fibrous sheath and the adipose tissue found around the facial vein protect its delicate wall from excessive strains produced during movement of the adjacent structures.

RESUMEN: El objetivo de esta investigación es estudiar las relaciones de la vena facial con las estructuras adyacentes. Las venas faciales, derecha e izquierda, de 50 cadáveres, fueron disecadas bajo microscopio estereoscopio y descritas sus relaciones con estructuras vecinas. Segmentos de las venas faciales de 10 cadáveres fueron sometidos a cortes histológicos teñidos por el método de Weigert modificado por Van Gieson. La vena facial, a pesar de su corto trayecto, sufre importantes variaciones en la constitución de su pared. En sus relaciones de sintopía, se relacionan con músculos, tejido adiposo y glándulas, entre otros tejidos. Verificamos la existencia de fibras elásticas y colágenas, conectando la adventicia a los tejidos adyacentes, así como formando una vaina fibrosa alrededor de la vena facial, lo que probablemente protege esta vena de tracciones producidas durante los movimientos de las estructuras vecinas. En el trabajo también son discutidas las implicancias de la sintopía de la vena facial y de los requerimientos biodinámicos generados por el movimiento sobre la morfología de esta vena.

PALABRAS CLAVE: 1.Anatomía funcional; 2. Fibras colágenas; 3. Fibras elásticas; 4. Vena facial.

* Professor do Departamento de Ciências Morfofisiológicas da Universidade Estadual de Maringá, Paraná, Brazil.
** Professor do Departamento de Anatomia do Instituto de Ciências Biomédicas da Universidade de São Paulo, Brazil.
*** Professor Emeritus, Medical College of Ohio; Visiting Professor, Escola Paulista de Medicina and Professor of Anatomy, Faculdade de Medicina de Santo Amaro, São Paulo, Brazil.
 Direción para correspondencia:
Sra. Prof.
Dra. Sonia Lucy Molinari
Universidade Estadual de Maringá
Av. Colombo, 5790 Bloco H-79 DCM
87020-900 - Maringá - Pr.


Recibido : 15-09-1998
Aceptado: 10-03-1999



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