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Duplication of the Inferior Vena Cava.


The safe, effective recovery of organs with maximal transplant potential is of paramount importance particularly, in the context of acute shortage of donor organs. Vascular anomalies at the time of operation can present significant challenges testing the technical and anatomical knowledge of the recovery surgeon. We highlight the case of a double Inferior Vena Cava (IVC) encountered in a multi-visceral recovery operation, outline our operative approach and serve as a reminder of this rare anatomical variation.


The donor was a 34-year-old brainstem dead male who had suffered a non-traumatic intracranial haemorrhage. There was no significant past medical history including any congenital defects. No previous or current abdominal cross sectional imaging had previously been under taken. Abdominal and thoracic multi organ procurements were planned with heart, lungs, liver, kidneys and pancreas accepted for transplantation.


Laparotomy revealed the presence of a double IVC (Figure 1). The two vena cava were approximately of equal caliber. At the level of the kidney, the left renal vein joined the left vena cava which then passed to the right and joined the right vena cava. The combined IVC trunk then traversed the normal retro hepatic route before passing through the diaphragm in to the right atrium in normal anatomical position. Both kidneys were of normal size with both the ureters located in normal positions. Liver also had a normal anatomy including vascular inflow and venous drainage. No other anatomical anomalies were encountered. Standard multi organ retrieval protocols were followed. Thoracic organs (heart and lungs) were procured first and no anatomical anomaly was reported. The supradiaphragmatic IVC was incised after start of aortic perfusion to ensure adequate flush of both right and left IVC. Liver was removed after dividing supra and common infra hepatic IVC, portal vein and celiac trunk. The left renal vein was retrieved with the intact left IVC which was divided before its junction with the right IVC. Similarly the right renal vein was retrieved with intact right IVC. Implantation of the liver and both kidneys were standard and without any complications


Duplication of the IVC is one of the most common anomalies affecting the inferior vena cava (IVC), next to transposition (left sided), and has been reported to occur in 0.2-3% of the population (3). Recognizing this anomaly is important in order to procure abdominal organs safely and also to recognize other anomalies that may co-exist with this condition. Duplication of IVC in the context of organ procurement has not been previously described in literature. During the embryonic development the formation of the IVC is a complex multistep process involving three paired venous channels (posterior cardinals, sub cardinals and supra-cardinals). The adult IVC is the result of, the formation of communicating channels between them and the eventual regression of specific segments before the 8th week of gestation (1), (2). Duplication of IVC arises as a result of the persistence of the right and left supra cardinal and sub cardinal veins (2). The right vena cava is usually dominant. The left vena cava joins it in front or behind the aorta at the level of or just above the left renal vein (Figure 2a,b,c,d). The size of the left vena cava can vary significantly and drain directly into the left renal vein (4). Associated conditions of relevance to the abdominal procurement surgeon include anomalies of the renal veins (circum aortic renal collar, and retro aortic renal vein) (1), right retro caval ureter (3), horseshoe kidney, congenital right renal agenesis (4) and cloacal exstrophy (5). Lumbar vein aberrations, including agenesis and collaterals have also been associated with vena cava anomalies.



A computerized tomogram (CT) or a magnetic resonance (MR) angiogram are the best diagnostic modalities for identifying and mapping venous anomalies within the retro peritoneum. If preoperatively identified, this will allow for safe surgical planning and outcomes (6). Whilst, a rare condition one should be alert to potential caval abnormalities when reviewing abdominal imaging of potential donors, (Figure 3) as anomalous venous structures tend to be dilated and tortuous making injury more likely (7). In deceased donor procurement setting, cross sectional imaging is usually not available at and a surgeon will have to rely on vigilance, awareness of potential anatomical variation and ensure adequate exposure of major vessels. The identification of a duplicated IVC in our donor did increase operative time, in order to define the true nature and extent of the anomaly and to plan the procurement of intra abdominal organs without compromising the utilization of procured organs for transplantation.


(1.) Mathews R, Smith PA, Fishman EK, Marshall FF. Anomalies of the inferior vena cava and renal veins: embryologic and surgical considerations. Urology. 1999 May; 53(5): 873-80

(2.) Bass JE, Redwine MD, Kramer LA, Huynh PT, Harris JH Jr. Spectrum of congenital anomalies of the inferior vena cava: cross-sectional imaging findings. Radiographics. 2000 May-Jun; 20(3):639-52

(3.) Babaian RJ, Johnson DE. Major venous anomalies complicating retroperitoneal surgery. South Med J. 1979 Oct; 72(10):1254-8

(4.) Friedland GW, deVries PA, Nino-Murcia M, King BF, Leder RA, Stevens S. Congenital anomalies of the inferior vena cava: embryogenesis and MR features. Urol Radiol. 1992;13(4):237-48

(5.) Muecke EC, Cook GT, Marshall VF. Duplication of the abdominal vena cava associated with cloacal exstrophy. J Urol. 1972 Mar;107(3):490-7

(6.) Aljabri B, MacDonald PS, Satin R, Stein LS, Obrand DI, Steinmetz OK. Incidence of major venous and renal anomalies relevant to aortoiliac surgery as demonstrated by computed tomography. Ann Vasc Surg. 2001 Nov; 15(6):615-8

(7.) Downey RS, Sicard GA, Anderson CB. Major retroperitoneal venous anomalies: surgical considerations. Surgery. 1990 Apr; 107(4):359-65

Authors: SS Raza, S Farid, MS Reddy, N Ahmad

Location: St James University Hospital, Leeds, UK
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Author:Raza, S.S.; Farid, S.; Reddy, M.S.; Ahmad, N.
Publication:Journal of Surgical Case Reports
Article Type:Report
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Sep 1, 2011
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