What are the common sites for venipuncture?

syringe image by NatUlrich from Fotolia.com

Venepuncture is the process of drawing blood from the veins. The procedure is commonly performed by phlebotomists, paramedics and other qualified medical practitioners. Common venepuncture equipment includes a syringe, needle, plastic catheter, vacuum tube, hypodermic needle and a plastic hub.

Superficial veins make the best sites for venepuncture, for they are not obstructed by tissues or arteries and are easily accessed.

Basilic Vein

The basilic vein is located in the upper limb and functions to draw blood from the hands and arms. It originates from the back of the hand, curves around the central forearm and continues upward, along the arm, to connect with the axillary vein (the blood vessel that supplies blood to the heart from the thorax and the axilla). This superficial (close to the epidermis of the skin) vein travels through the fat posterior to the muscles of the upper limb. It is visible through the skin and appears as a deep-blue structure when viewed by the naked eye. The basilic vein is the most common site for venepuncture.

Median Cubital Vein

Another common site for venepuncture is the median cubital vein, which is a superficial vein lying over the cubital fossa region of the upper arm. The vein arises at the elbow bend and connects with the cephalic and basilic veins. The median cubital vein is used for the introduction of catheters, blood transfusions, intravenous injections and for the collection of blood samples or phlebotomy. The medial cubital vein is larger than other superficial veins and more stable than most. It is well anchored and stationary, making the drawing of blood relatively painless.

Dorsal Hand Veins

The dorsal network of veins is formed by the dorsal metacarpal veins and located on both the front and the back side of the hand. The basilic vein and cephalic vein originate from the dorsal venous network. The cephalic vein, or the antecubital vein, travels up along the lateral side of the arm and links the hand with the shoulder. It passes through the tissues in the shoulder and drains into the axillary vein, becoming the subclavian vein.