Why do veins appear blue? A new look at an old question Journal Articles uri icon

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  • We investigate why vessels that contain blood, which has a red or a dark red color, may look bluish in human tissue. A CCD camera was used to make images of diffusely reflected light at different wavelengths. Measurements of reflectance that are due to model blood vessels in scattering media and of human skin containing a prominent vein are presented. Monte Carlo simulations were used to calculate the spatially resolved diffuse reflectance for both situations. We show that the color of blood vessels is determined by the following factors: (i) the scattering and absorption characteristics of skin at different wavelengths, (ii) the oxygenation state of blood, which affects its absorption properties, (iii) the diameter and the depth of the vessels, and (iv) the visual perception process.


  • Kienle, Alwin
  • Lilge, Lothar
  • Vitkin, I Alex
  • Patterson, Michael
  • Wilson, Brian C
  • Hibst, Raimund
  • Steiner, Rudolf

publication date

  • March 1, 1996