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J Vasc Surg. 2009 Oct;50(4):835-42; discussion 842-3. doi: 10.1016/j.jvs.2009.05.012. Epub 2009 Aug 6.

Volume associated dynamic geometry and spatial orientation of the inferior vena cava.

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  • 1University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas, TX 75390, USA.



The geometry and dynamics of the vena cava are poorly understood and current knowledge is largely based on qualitative data. The purpose of this study is to quantitate the dimensional changes that occur in the infrarenal inferior vena cava (IVC), in response to changes in intravascular volume.


IVC dimensions were measured at 1 cm and 5 cm below the renal veins, on serial contrasted computed tomographic (CT) scans, in 30 severely injured trauma patients during hypovolemic (admission) and fluid resuscitated (follow-up) states. Changes in volume of the infrarenal segment were calculated and correlated with changes in IVC diameter and orientation. The orientation of the infrarenal caval segment was quantified as the angulation of the major axis from the horizontal. A representation of the IVC diameter, as would be seen on standard anterior-posterior venographic imaging, was determined by projecting the CT image of the major axis onto a coronal plane. CT representations of venographic diameters were compared with measurements of the true major axis to assess accuracy of venograms for caval sizing and filter selection.


All patients had evidence of a collapsed IVC (<15 mm minor axis dimension) on admission. Mean time between admission and follow-up CT was 49.5 (range: 1-202) days. The volume of the infrarenal segment increased more than twofold with resuscitation, increasing from 6.9 +/- 2.2 (range: 3.1-12.4) mL on admission, to 15.7 +/- 5.0 (range: 9.2-28.5) mL on follow-up (P < .01). At both 1 and 5 cm below the renal veins, the IVC expanded anisotropically such that the minor axis expanded up to five times its initial size accommodating 84% of the increased volume of the segment, while only small diameter changes were observed in the major axis accounting for less than 5% of the volume increase (P < .001). Further, the IVC was left-anterior-oblique in all patients, with the major axis 26 degrees off the horizontal on average. This orientation did not change significantly with volume resuscitation (P > 0.5). The obliquity of the IVC resulted in significant underestimation of caval size of up to 6.8 mm, when using the venographic representation for sizing instead of the true major axis (P < 0.001).


In response to changes in intravascular volume, the IVC undergoes profound anisotropic dimensional changes, with greater displacement seen in the minor axis. In addition, the IVC is oriented left-anterior oblique and caval orientation is not altered by changes in volume status. IVC obliquity may result in underestimation of caval size by anterior-posterior venogram.

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