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Laryngorhinootologie. 2004 Nov;83(11):743-9.

[Etiology and therapy of the internal jugular vein thrombosis].

[Article in German]

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Universitätsklinik für Hals-, Nasen- und Ohrenheilkunde und Poliklinik, Universitätsklinikum Freiburg.



Thromboses of the upper limp and neck are rare in comparison with those of the lower extremities. Internal jugular vein thrombosis (IJVT) is a serious event with a potentially fatal outcome. Complications include pulmonary embolism, sepsis with septic emboli to different organs and tissues as well as intracranial propagation of the thrombus with cerebral edema. As any thrombosis, IJVT is precipitated by Virchow's triad: endothelial damage, alteration of blood flow and hypercoagulability. The history and examination in patients with an IJVT may be vague and misleading. Patients may present with a painful swelling of the neck but they may also be absolutely asymptomatic. Imaging procedures frequently used to diagnose an IJVT include sonography with color-coded duplex sonography, computed tomography, magnetic resonance imaging as well as magnetic resonance venography. Up to date, there is no standardized treatment regimen for patients with an IJVT.


This retrospective study includes all ten patients with an IJVT who were seen at our department between January 2000 and January 2004. There were six female and four male patients. The average age was 49.7 years, ranging from 28 to 79 years.


In five cases, the thrombosis was associated with a malignant tumor. In four patients, it was caused by a deep neck space infection and in one case the IJVT was due to cervical, intravenous drug abuse. Two patients were found to be pregnant (one tumor patient and one patient with a deep neck space infection). In all cases, a ten day treatment regimen with intravenous antibiotics and anticoagulant therapy was initiated. Oral or subcutaneous anticoagulation was continued for six weeks to six months. No complications were seen in any patient. In three patients a revascularization of the affected vessel could be demonstrated with color-coded duplex sonography six months after the initial presentation.


Thrombosis of the IJV is probably underdiagnosed. Since the clinical presentation may be vague or misleading, a high degree of suspicion is required to make the diagnosis. The potential complications such as pulmonary embolism or intracranial propagation of the thrombus may be fatal. Whenever the thrombosis is not caused by an inflammatory process, a malignant tumor should be excluded. We recommend a therapy with intravenous antibiotics as well as a systemic anticoagulation. Ligation or resection of the internal jugular vein is reserved for patients who develop complications despite adequate medical therapy.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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