vein(redirected from vena)
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vein, blood vessel that returns blood to the heart. Except for the pulmonary vein, which carries oxygenated blood from the lungs to the heart, veins carry deoxygenated blood. The oxygen-depleted blood passes from the capillaries to the venules (small veins). The venules feed into larger veins, which eventually merge into the superior and inferior vena cavae, large vessels that consolidate the blood flow from the head, neck, and arms and from the trunk and legs, respectively (see also circulatory system). The vena cavae direct the blood back into the heart. The walls of a vein are formed of three layers like the walls of an artery. However, these layers are thinner and less muscular and collapse when empty. With such notable exceptions as the portal system, most veins contain valves, formed by pouches in their inner coats, that keep the blood from flowing backward. Valves are most numerous in the veins of the extremities, and are absent in the smallest veins. Veins are subject to inflammation, dilatation or enlargement (as in a varicose vein), rupture, and blockage by blood clots (thrombosis).
a mineral body filling a fissure in rock. Simple veins are single mineralized fissures; complex veins are clusters of interwoven fissures or of zones of fracturing or schist formation. According to their morphological details veins are called lenticular, chambered, saddle-reef, ladder, or feather. Veins that cut across the layers of enclosing rock are called intersecting veins; those that lie in conformity with the stratification and dip of the enclosing rock are called stratified. The length of veins of mineral products varies from 1 m or less to 200 km—for example, the veins of gold ore in California. In terms of dip some veins taper off close to the earth’s surface, and others, for example, the vein of the Kolar deposit in India, are worked at a depth of more than 3 km. A vein has a geological and a working thickness, the minimum thickness for exploiting the vein deposit. Depending on the value of the constituent minerals, the working thickness of a vein may vary from several centimeters to dozens of meters.