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Jugular Vein Thrombosis - Overview

The jugular veins are part of the venous system of the body. They carry deoxygenated blood from the head back to the heart. There are two pairs of jugular veins, internal jugular veins and external jugular veins. The internal jugular veins run next to the common carotid artery and the vagus nerve. The external jugular veins run more superficially and are located next to the sternocleidomastoid muscle. The pain which may be associated with these veins is caused by the process of thrombosis.

Thrombosis of the jugular veins is a serious medical condition which typically occurs as a consequence of head and neck infections, different surgeries, central venous access, local growth of malignant tumors, polycytemia, hyperhomocyteinemia and intravenous drug abuse. Thrombosis in rather rare cases occurs spontaneously.

Jugular vein thrombosis carries significant risk of certain complications such as death. The complications include systemic sepsis, chylothorax, papilledema, airway edema, pulmonary embolism, etc.

Setting of the diagnosis of jugular vein thrombosis may be rather challenging and the doctor must be well experienced to suspect of this medical condition.

Causes of Jugular Vein Thrombosis

The leading cause of jugular vein thrombosis is insertion of central venous catheters. One study confirmed the occurrence of jugular vein thrombosis in 66% of all patients who had undergone a central vein catheterization. The risk significantly increases if patients suffer from comorbidities and have low cardiac output. Even insertion of a venous catheter into the subclavian vein may lead to jugular vein thrombosis.

Apart from a central venous catheter there are several more causes of jugular vein thrombosis. Namely, this medical condition typically affects people who abuse intravenous drugs and inject the drugs via jugular vein. Furthermore, jugular vein thrombosis affects people suffering from Lemierre syndrome, deep neck infections and necrotizing soft tissue infections. It may also be a consequence of neck dissection surgery and occurs due to the presence of malignant tumors of the head and neck. Even distant malignant disease may induce hypercoagulation of the blood which eventually leads to jugular vein thrombosis. Apart from hypercoagulation any kind of trauma to the jugular vein may result in thrombosis. And hyperhomicyteinemia, polycytemia as well as neck massage may be several more causes of jugular vein thrombosis. Even though it happens rarely in some people thrombosis may occur spontaneously.

No matter what the cause of jugular vein thrombosis is, this medical condition requires prompt medical care and hospitalization. The treatment of the thrombosis is conservative or surgical depending on the underlying cause.

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