Veins return blood to the heart for eventual oxygenation by the lungs. They contain valves that prevent a backup of the blood, or prevent blood from flowing back away from the heart. The retromandibular vein is a branch of the jugular veins. The jugular veins go up the neck and join with the facial veins. The retromandibular vein is formed at the joining of the maxillary vein and the superficial temporal vein in front of the ear. The facial veins drain blood from the face and return it to the heart for oxygenation. The retromandibular vein divides into two branches, anterior and posterior. The anterior portion proceeds forward to the anterior facial vein, and together they join to form the common facial vein. The posterior joins the posterior auricular vein to become the external jugular. Studies of cadavers have shown that in some cases, the retromandibular vein runs a slightly different course on the right and left sides of the face. This can make it difficult when surgery is performed involving the retromandibular vein and the facial nerves, because the vein can run on different facets of the nerves.
Written and medically reviewed by the Healthline Editorial Team
In Depth: Retromandibular vein