The Importance of the Small Saphenous (SSV) Vein in Circulatory Health

Written By Center for Vein Restoration
Blog Importance SSV

The human circulatory system is a marvel of intricate vessels and veins that work tirelessly to ensure the smooth flow of blood throughout the body. Among these vessels, the small saphenous vein (SSV) is crucial in maintaining circulatory health. In this blog, we will delve into the anatomy, function, and significance of the small saphenous vein—and what you should do if you are experiencing vein problems.

The Role of the Small Saphenous Vein

Imagine the circulatory system as a vast network of highways transporting essential goods (oxygen and nutrients) to various destinations (body tissues). The small saphenous vein serves as a crucial exit ramp, allowing blood from the lower extremities to smoothly merge back into the main circulation, ensuring a continuous and efficient flow of resources throughout the entire "transportation network."

The Anatomy of the Small Saphenous Vein

Understanding the path and connections of the small saphenous vein (SSV) is crucial in comprehending its role in circulatory function. The small saphenous vein, like the great saphenous vein (GSV), is superficial, meaning it runs close to the surface of the skin, making it accessible for medical examination and procedures.

The SSV is one of the major veins in the lower legs, primarily found in the calf region, and is responsible for collecting oxygen-poor blood from smaller veins in the legs and feet and carrying this blood to deep veins where it can keep flowing back to the heart.

It starts from two veins in the foot and runs up the leg, originating from the foot's lateral side (outer side) and coursing up the posterior (back) of the calf. The SSV ultimately drains into the popliteal vein behind the knee. The popliteal vein is a blood vessel running behind the knee and back up the thigh, carrying blood from the legs back to the heart.

According to Science Direct, “the SSV is the most prominent and physiologically important superficial vein below the knee.”

The Function of the Small Saphenous Vein

The primary function of the small saphenous vein is to facilitate the return of deoxygenated blood from the lower extremities back to the heart. This is a vital aspect of the circulatory system, as efficient venous return ensures proper oxygenation and nutrient supply to tissues and organs.

The SSV accomplishes this function through a series of one-way valves that prevent the backflow of blood. These valves are strategically placed along the course of the vein, allowing blood to move toward the heart while impeding its reversal. The rhythmic contraction of muscles during activities like walking aids in the upward movement of blood through the SSV.

The Importance of the Small Saphenous Vein in Circulatory Health

Maintaining the health and functionality of the small saphenous vein is crucial for overall circulatory well-being. When the SSV or its valves become compromised, various circulatory issues may arise, leading to symptoms and conditions that can impact an individual's quality of life.

Complications include:

  1. Venous Insufficiency: One common concern with the SSV is venous insufficiency. This condition occurs when the valves in the vein become weak or damaged, causing blood to pool in the lower extremities. This can result in symptoms such as swelling, pain, and the development of varicose veins.
  2. Thrombophlebitis: The SSV is also susceptible to inflammation, known as thrombophlebitis. Inflammation of the vein can lead to the formation of blood clots, which pose a risk of complications if they travel to other parts of the circulatory system.
  3. Chronic Venous Disease: Prolonged venous insufficiency can contribute to the development of chronic venous disease. This condition encompasses a range of venous disorders, including skin changes, ulcers, and other complications that can significantly impact a person's mobility and well-being.

According to the Clevland Clinic, vein diseases affect the saphenous veins, preventing the veins from working properly and causing painful leg conditions that require treatment by a healthcare professional. Center for Vein Restoration (CVR) is a nationally recognized leader in the treatment of vein disorders of the legs, providing state-of-the-art vascular care in a compassionate and affordable manner. A team of world-renowned and respected vein care practitioners provides vascular services at CVR.

What’s the Difference Between the Small Saphenous Vein and Varsicose Veins?

The SSV and varicose veins are distinct anatomical entities with different characteristics and clinical implications. The key differences between the SSV and varicose veins can be summarized as follows:

  • The SSV is a superficial vein in the leg that plays a role in returning deoxygenated blood from the lower leg and calf muscles back to the heart. Varicose veins, by contrast, are swollen and injured veins that don't work properly, commonly affecting the saphenous vein.
  • While the SSV is a single vein with a well-defined course, varicose veins are a condition where veins, including the saphenous veins, become enlarged, twisted, and dysfunctional.
  • The SSV is a specific superficial vein in the posterior leg, responsible for draining the leg's lateral surface and running up the leg's posterior surface to drain into the popliteal vein. In contrast, varicose veins are characterized by the enlargement, twisting, and impaired function of veins, including the saphenous veins.

In summary, the small saphenous vein is a distinct anatomical structure, while varicose veins refer to a pathological condition involving the enlargement and dysfunction of veins, including the saphenous veins.

Maintaining Small Saphenous Vein Health

Per Medical News Today, while circulation is primarily an automatic process, there are some ways to improve circulation—namely, preventive measures play a crucial role in maintaining the health of the small saphenous vein and preventing circulatory issues. Individuals can adopt lifestyle habits that promote good circulatory function, including regular exercise, maintaining a healthy weight, and avoiding prolonged periods of sitting or standing.

Furthermore, those with a family history of venous disorders or other risk factors should monitor their circulatory health and seek medical advice if they experience symptoms such as leg pain, swelling, or changes in skin appearance.

Diagnosis and Treatment of the Small Saphenous Vein

Given the importance of the small saphenous vein in circulatory health, it is essential to have diagnostic tools and treatment approaches to address issues that may arise. Vein health physicians may utilize imaging techniques such as ultrasound to assess the condition of the SSV and identify any abnormalities.

Treatment options for small saphenous vein-related issues vary depending on the severity of the condition. Conservative measures, such as compression stockings and lifestyle modifications, may be recommended for mild cases. In more severe instances, minimally invasive medical interventions such as:

Endovenous laser treatment (EVLT)

Endovenous laser treatment is a minimally invasive procedure used to treat varicose veins. It involves the use of a laser to heat and close off the affected veins, allowing healthy veins to restore normal blood flow. This procedure is performed in an outpatient setting and has a shorter recovery time than traditional surgery, making it a popular alternative for those with medium to large varicose veins.

Radiofrequency ablation (RFA)

Radiofrequency ablation) is a minimally invasive procedure used to treat varicose veins and chronic venous disease. During RFA, radiofrequency energy is used to heat and damage the vein's wall, leading to the closure of the affected vein and the redirection of blood flow to nearby healthy veins. This technique can be performed with local anesthesia, does not require general anesthesia, and typically allows patients to go home the same day, making it a convenient treatment option for varicose veins.


Sclerotherapy is a minimally invasive medical procedure used to eliminate varicose veins and spider veins. It involves the injection of a chemical solution directly into the affected vein, causing it to collapse, stick together, and eventually fade from view. Sclerotherapy is a proven treatment commonly used to improve the appearance of varicose and spider veins, and it can also help alleviate associated symptoms such as aching, swelling, and burning. The procedure does not require anesthesia and has a quick recovery time. Patients can return to normal activities immediately, with few restrictions.

Concerned About Your Circulation? Center for Vein Restoration Can Help!

By prioritizing patient comfort and convenience, Center for Vein Restoration aims to help individuals regain mobility and enjoy life free from the concerns of varicose veins and related circulatory problems.

Center for Vein Restoration (CVR) offers a comprehensive approach to addressing circulatory issues, providing a range of outpatient treatment options to improve venous health. From minimally invasive procedures like endovenous laser treatment and radiofrequency ablation to lifestyle recommendations such as regular exercise and wearing compression stockings, CVR focuses on enhancing blood circulation and relieving discomfort associated with venous insufficiency.

CVR accepts many insurances, including Aetna, Amerigroup, Anthem, Blue Cross/Blue Shield, Cigna, MultiPlan, Medicaid, Medicare, and more.

Call 240-965-3915 to speak to a Patient Services Representative or schedule your consultation online at a CVR near you today.

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