Internal jugular vein thrombosis is an uncommon entity in the general population though for obvious reasons expeditious diagnosis is crucial . Previous studies of IJVT have occurred in outpatient, inpatient, and intensive care unit settings, and data for patients presenting to the ED with IJVT were lacking. Existing data show the most common risk factor for IJVT to be central venous catheter placement, followed by malignancy, either local or distant, as in the above-described case [2–4]. Less common risk factors include intravenous drug abuse, ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome, sepsis, multiple trauma, anatomic abnormalities, and iatrogenic neck trauma, including pacemaker placement and neck dissection [1, 2, 5].
In patients with IJVT who are symptomatic, the most common complaint is neck pain, associated with local swelling approximately 80% of the time [2, 4]. Other diagnoses to consider include cellulitis, neck space infections, and deep neck abscesses .
It is crucial to make the diagnosis of IJVT at the patient’s first presentation as up to 36% of patients will have subsequent or concomitant pulmonary embolism (PE), and this diagnosis may be the first hint of an underlying malignancy [2, 4]. Isolated IJVT has been shown to have a 12-month mortality of 42% though death was related more to underlying illness than to IJVT or PE .
Venography, the gold standard for diagnosing deep vein thrombosis, is too invasive and impractical for routine use. Bedside ultrasound, however, is rapid, non-invasive, and can readily determine with great accuracy whether IJVT is present. The sensitivity of compression ultrasonography for diagnosing IJVT is approximately 96%, approaching 100% if color flow Doppler is used, while specificity is 93% . If IJVT is suspected, a linear-array transducer should be used to visualize the internal jugular, subclavian, and brachiocephalic veins. In this case, the thrombosis was obvious with a hyperechoic focus noted inside the internal jugular vein (Fig. 1, Videos 1–3) though in other patients a lack of vessel compressibility may be the only evidence of IJVT which is equally diagnostic . If flow abnormalities alone are noted without a hyperechoic focus or lack of compressibility, further imaging is needed .