Home > Blog, Cancer Update, Interest, Medical > What is The Internal Jugular Vein?

What is The Internal Jugular Vein?

I thought I would briefly explain what exactly the Internal Jugular vein is, and why I had problems with it.

Anatomy of the Neck with the IJV highlighted

Anatomy of the Neck with the IJV highlighted

The Internal Jugular Vein (IJV) is one of two major veins that drain the deoxygenated blood from the brain and head back down to the heart so that it can be sent to the lungs for oxygenation again. Each person has two IJV’s as well as two External Jugular Veins (EJV’s), and these are the main tributaries for blood to return to the heart from the neck upwards.

What happened with me was that my portacath, a tube that ran from my chest to the heart, makes it’s way to the heart by inserting in the IJV, then follows the IJV down where it joins the brachiocephallic (this vein drains the arm), which then joins the Superior Vena Cava, which then drains in the Right Atrium of the Heart. At the point of insertion into the IJV, this is where a clot started to build up. Clots generally can be caused by a number of things, but having foreign body in your blood vessel can be a cause, also, in my case, having cancer is also referred to a ‘pro thrombotic state’, as well as the chemo drugs I’m on [For the medical students: Capecitabine is pro-thrombotic, yet its dose-limiting side effect is thrombocytopenia.. any ideas?]. This all added up to a reasonable risk, one doctors and myself were willing to  take, to causing a clot.

So the clot started, and once it starts, unless you take away the source of the clot, it will continue to grow. The major risks of having a clot there are mainly that fragments could break off, flow downstream and into the lungs, block off the lungs, which then stops me from oxygenating my blood and causing me to die from oxygen starvation. This is called a pulmonary embolism.

The portacath was removed with surgery to prevent the clot growing, and I was also placed on regular clexane injections in order to assist the prevention of further clot formation. The body will do the breaking down of the clot in its own good time.

And THAT is what last weeks drama was about! 🙂

  1. Retta Hedges
    June 25, 2013 at 3:44 pm

    I had 4 blood clots in my left arm – after they were diagnosed and I had finished 14 injections of Levenox and 5 mg of Warfarin per day. My neck asldo started swelling on the left side above the collar bone, then it begin to get sore and then some wierd symptoms going on. I have seen an pulmonologist from Duke Medical Center who is now referring me to a Thoracic/Cardovascular Surgeon on 7/2. Before anything can be done I will have to be off Warfarin for 3-7 days. I am anxious to get this diagnosed and get started on getting it finished. Any details you have would be greatly appreciated. I have been working through this with doctors for 8 weeks and all I am getting is more and more referrels.

  2. Dee
    August 21, 2015 at 3:14 pm

    I disliked getting those clexane injections. They were supposed to put them in my tummy but I have developed a needle phobia after I had complications with my TRAM reconstruction after a double mastectomy. So they let me have them in my thigh instead.

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