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STOP using “Superficial” Femoral Vein in Doppler Reports

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Key Takeaways

MisnomerCorrect TermImplications
Superficial Femoral Vein (SFV)Femoral VeinThe incorrect term can lead to confusion, especially in the context of deep vein thrombosis.

Understanding the Misnomer

The term “Superficial Femoral Vein” or “SFV” is commonly used by radiologists and ultrasound technologists. However, this term is considered a misnomer.

Why is it a Misnomer?

The term “superficial femoral vein” suggests that this vein is superficial or close to the surface of the body. However, this is not the case. The SFV is actually located deep within the thigh, making it part of the deep venous system.

Table 1: Comparison of Superficial and Deep Veins

Superficial VeinsDeep Veins
Close to the surface of the bodyLocated deep within the body
Generally do not accompany arteriesGenerally accompany arteries
Examples: Great saphenous vein, small saphenous veinExamples: Femoral vein, popliteal vein

The Confusion with Deep Vein Thrombosis

Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) is a serious condition where a blood clot forms in one of the body’s deep veins. Since the SFV is part of the deep venous system, a clot in this vein would be classified as DVT. However, if a healthcare professional misunderstands the SFV as a superficial vein due to its name, they might underestimate the severity of a clot in this vein.

The Correct Terminology and Its Impact

According to the Terminologia Anatomica, the international standard for anatomical terminology, the correct term for the SFV is simply “femoral vein”.

Anatomy and Course of the Femoral Vein

The femoral vein runs alongside the femoral artery in the upper thigh. It plays a crucial role in returning blood from the lower half of the body back to the heart.

Table 2: Course of the Femoral Vein

RegionAccompanying Artery
Upper thighFemoral artery
Behind the knee (becomes popliteal vein)Popliteal artery

Implications of Using Incorrect Terminology

Using incorrect terminology can lead to confusion and potential misdiagnosis. For example, a healthcare professional might underestimate the severity of a clot in the SFV if they misunderstand it as a superficial vein.


It’s important for radiologists and ultrasound technologists to use correct terminology. This not only ensures clear communication but also helps prevent potential misdiagnoses. By understanding why “superficial femoral vein” is a misnomer and using the correct term “femoral vein”, we can improve patient care and outcomes.


  • Chua CC, Hong FS, Ho WK. The superficial femoral vein – time to change this misnomer. J Med Imaging Radiat Oncol. 2017;61(4):500-502. doi:10.1111/1754-9485.12626
  • Bundens WP, Bergan JJ, Halasz NA, Murray J, Drehobl M. The superficial femoral vein. A potentially lethal misnomer. JAMA. 1995;274(16):1296-1298.

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