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Surg Radiol Anat. 2015 Apr;37(3):231-8. doi: 10.1007/s00276-014-1350-2. Epub 2014 Jul 22.

Three-dimensional reconstruction of the lower limb's venous system in human fetuses using the computer-assisted anatomical dissection (CAAD) technique.

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URDIA EA4465, Laboratoire d'Anatomie, Université Paris Descartes, 45 rue des Saints Pères, 75006, Paris, France.



The aim of the present study was to show the feasibility and describe the first results of a 3D reconstruction of the venous network of the lower limbs in human fetus using the computer-assisted anatomical dissection (CAAD) technique.


We used limbs from two human fetuses, respectively, 14 and 15 weeks gestation old. Specimens were fixed in 10% formalin, embedded in paraffin wax and serially sectioned at 10 m. The histological slices were stained using HES and Masson Trichrome for soft tissues identification. Immunolabeling techniques using the Protein S-100 marker and the D2-40 marker were used to identify nerves and vessels, respectively. Stained slices were aligned manually, labeled and digitalized. The segmentation of all anatomical structures was achieved using the WinSurf(®) software after manual drawing.


A 3D interactive vectorial model of the whole leg, including skin, bone, muscles, arteries, veins, and nerves was obtained. In all limbs, we observed the presence of a big axial vein traveling along the sciatic nerve. In addition, the femoral vein appeared as a small plexus. Although this is a common anatomical feature at the end of organogenesis, this feature is observed in only 9% of adults. Usually interpreted as an "anatomical variation of the femoral vein" it should be considered as a light truncular malformation. These observations bring further support to our proposed "angio-guiding nerves" hypothesis.


This preliminary study shows that the CAAD technique provided an accurate 3D reconstruction of the fetal leg veins anatomy. It should bring a new insight for the understanding of the different steps of development of the human venous system.

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