Anatomy of the Jugular Veins
There are two sets of jugular veins: external and internal.
A. Internal Jugular Vein
The internal jugular vein (IJV) is a vital blood vessel that plays a crucial role in the venous drainage system of the head and neck. This large, paired vein is situated on either side of the neck, extending from the base of the skull to the thorax. In this article, we will provide an in-depth description of the location and anatomy of the internal jugular vein, including a detailed diagram and embedded links for further understanding.Anatomical Origin and Course
The IJV originates from the jugular foramen, a large aperture located at the base of the skull. This foramen is formed by the junction of the temporal and occipital bones. The vein arises from the confluence of the sigmoid sinus and the inferior petrosal sinus, which are dural venous sinuses draining blood from the brain.
From its origin, the IJV descends vertically in the neck, running within the carotid sheath alongside the common carotid artery and the vagus nerve (CN X). The vein, artery, and nerve are typically arranged in a triangular configuration, with the IJV lying laterally, the common carotid artery medially, and the vagus nerve positioned posteriorly between the two vessels.
The IJV courses deep to the sternocleidomastoid muscle, a prominent muscle that extends from the sternum and clavicle to the mastoid process of the temporal bone. The vein is also covered by the investing layer of the deep cervical fascia, which encloses the neck’s musculature and neurovascular structures.
Tributaries and Drainage
Throughout its descent, the IJV receives blood from numerous tributaries, which drain various regions of the head and neck. Some of the most significant tributaries include:
- Facial vein: Drains blood from the facial region.
- Lingual vein: Drains blood from the tongue and floor of the mouth.
- Pharyngeal veins: Drain blood from the pharynx.
- Superior thyroid vein: Drains blood from the thyroid gland and adjacent structures.
- Middle thyroid vein: Drains blood from the thyroid gland.
The IJV terminates at the root of the neck, where it merges with the subclavian vein to form the brachiocephalic vein. This confluence typically occurs behind the medial end of the clavicle, just anterior to the first rib. The left and right brachiocephalic veins then unite to form the superior vena cava, which carries deoxygenated blood from the upper half of the body to the right atrium of the heart.
The internal jugular vein’s prominence and accessibility make it a prime target for various medical procedures, such as:
- Central venous catheterization: A procedure in which a catheter is inserted into the IJV to monitor central venous pressure or administer medications, fluids, or parenteral nutrition.
- Jugular venous pressure (JVP) assessment: A non-invasive method to evaluate right atrial pressure, right ventricular function, and overall fluid status by observing the IJV’s pulsations.
- Jugular vein sampling: A diagnostic procedure in which blood is collected from the IJV to measure hormone levels or detect the presence of tumor cells.
Diagram and Further Resources
To better visualize the anatomy and location of the internal jugular vein, refer to this detailed diagram.
For additional information on the internal jugular vein and its surrounding structures, visit the following resources:
B. External Jugular Vein
The external jugular vein (EJV) is a superficial, paired vein that plays a significant role in the venous drainage of the head and neck. Located on either side of the neck, the EJV provides an alternate route for blood to return to the heart when the internal jugular vein (IJV) is compromised. In this article, we will provide a comprehensive description of the location and anatomy of the external jugular vein, complete with a detailed diagram and embedded links for further understanding.
Anatomical Origin and Course
The EJV has its origin from the union of the posterior auricular vein and the posterior division of the retromandibular vein. This confluence typically occurs near the angle of the mandible, just below the ear.
From its origin, the EJV courses obliquely in a posteroinferior direction across the neck. It runs superficial to the sternocleidomastoid muscle, a prominent muscle that extends from the sternum and clavicle to the mastoid process of the temporal bone. Unlike the IJV, the EJV does not lie within the carotid sheath and is more superficially located.
The EJV then passes over the sternocleidomastoid muscle and behind the clavicle, eventually piercing the investing layer of the deep cervical fascia to enter the deeper structures of the neck. Finally, the EJV drains into the subclavian vein, a major blood vessel that carries blood from the upper extremities and part of the head and neck to the heart.
Tributaries and Drainage
Throughout its course, the EJV receives blood from several tributaries, which drain various regions of the head, face, and neck. Some of the most significant tributaries include:
- Occipital vein: Drains blood from the posterior scalp and part of the neck.
- Cervical veins: Drain blood from the superficial tissues of the neck.
- Transverse cervical vein: Drains blood from the superficial tissues of the anterolateral neck.
- Suprascapular vein: Drains blood from the scapular region.
The external jugular vein’s superficial location makes it easily accessible for various medical procedures, such as:
- Peripheral venous catheterization: A procedure in which a catheter is inserted into the EJV to administer medications, fluids, or blood products, particularly when other peripheral veins arenot accessible or suitable. However, it is important to note that the EJV is less commonly used for this purpose than other peripheral veins, such as those in the arm. 2. Blood sampling: The EJV may be used to obtain blood samples for diagnostic purposes when other peripheral veins are difficult to access, such as in cases of severe dehydration or in patients with extensive burns or injuries.
- Jugular venous pressure (JVP) assessment: Although the internal jugular vein is typically preferred for this procedure, the external jugular vein may be used as an alternative for evaluating right atrial pressure, right ventricular function, and overall fluid status by observing the vein’s pulsations.
Diagram and Further Resources
To better visualize the anatomy and location of the external jugular vein, refer to this detailed diagram.
For additional information on the external jugular vein and its surrounding structures, visit the following resources:
- AnatomyZone: External Jugular Vein – 3D Anatomy Tutorial
- Kenhub: External Jugular Vein
- Radiopaedia: External Jugular Vein
In conclusion, the external jugular vein is an essential blood vessel responsible for draining blood from the head, face, and neck regions. Its superficial location and oblique course across the neck make it an important structure in understanding the anatomy of the neck and a potential site for various clinical procedures.
Visualization of the Jugular Venous Pressure
Accurate visualization and measurement of JVP are essential in the evaluation of a patient’s cardiovascular status. The following steps outline the correct procedure for JVP assessment:
2.1 Patient Positioning
To visualize the JVP, the patient should be placed in a supine position with their head elevated at a 30-45 degree angle. This angle optimizes the visualization of the IJV, allowing for a more accurate assessment of JVP.
2.2 Locating the JVP
The IJV is not directly visible as it lies deep within the neck. However, the pulsations of the IJV can be observed by looking at the point where the sternocleidomastoid muscle crosses the clavicle
To measure the JVP, identify the highest point of the IJV pulsations in the neck. Extend a horizontal line from the highest point of pulsation to the sternal angle (also known as the angle of Louis). Then, use a ruler to measure the vertical distance between the sternal angle and the horizontal line. The normal JVP is between 3 and 8 cm of water (H2O) pressure above the sternal angle.
3. Differentiation of JVP from the Carotid Pulse
Differentiating JVP from the carotid pulse is critical to avoid misinterpretation. There are several key characteristics that distinguish the two:
3.1 Pulsation Pattern
The jugular venous pulse exhibits a biphasic or triphasic pattern, with two or three distinct waves (a, c, and v waves) in each cardiac cycle. In contrast, the carotid pulse has a single, more forceful upstroke that correlates with ventricular systole.
The JVP is typically non-palpable due to its low pressure, while the carotid pulse is easily palpable due to its higher pressure.
3.3 Response to Pressure
Applying gentle pressure to the neck, above the clavicle, will often cause the JVP to disappear or decrease, as the IJV is more easily compressible. In contrast, the carotid pulse will not be affected by this maneuver.
3.4 Positional Changes
The height of the JVP typically changes with the patient’s position – it decreases when the patient sits up and increases when the patient lies down. The carotid pulse remains relatively constant regardless of the patient’s position.
The jugular venous pulse (JVP) is an essential component of cardiovascular physical examination, offering valuable insights into a patient’s cardiac function and overall hemodynamics. The JVP waveform provides a visual representation of the pressure changes within the right atrium throughout the cardiac cycle. Understanding the intricacies of this waveform is crucial for identifying potential cardiac abnormalities and informing appropriate clinical management.
- The JVP Waveform: An Overview
The JVP waveform consists of three positive deflections (a, c, and v waves) and two negative deflections (x and y descents). This characteristic pattern corresponds to distinct phases within the cardiac cycle.
A. The A Wave
The first positive deflection of the JVP waveform is the a wave. This wave corresponds to atrial contraction, which results in an increase in right atrial pressure. The a wave typically peaks just before the first heart sound (S1) and is most prominent during sinus rhythm. In conditions such as atrial fibrillation, the a wave is absent due to irregular atrial contractions.
B. The X Descent
Following the a wave, the JVP waveform dips in the x descent. This negative deflection signifies a decrease in right atrial pressure as the tricuspid valve opens and blood flows from the atrium to the ventricle. The x descent occurs simultaneously with the beginning of ventricular systole.
C. The C Wave
The second positive deflection in the JVP waveform is the c wave. It occurs during the early phase of ventricular systole, corresponding to the closure of the tricuspid valve and the subsequent bulging of the valve into the right atrium. This event causes a transient increase in right atrial pressure, creating the c wave. It is important to note that the c wave is not always easily discernible, as it may merge with the a wave or x descent.
D. The V Wave
The third and final positive deflection in the JVP waveform is the v wave. This wave represents the passive filling of the right atrium as blood returns from the systemic circulation during ventricular systole. As the tricuspid valve remains closed, right atrial pressure continues to rise, culminating in the v wave. The v wave typically peaks just before the second heart sound (S2).
E. The Y Descent
The JVP waveform’s final negative deflection is the y descent. This descent marks the decline in right atrial pressure as the tricuspid valve reopens and blood flows into the right ventricle during early ventricular diastole. The y descent follows the v wave and is a crucial component of the JVP waveform, as its absence or alteration may indicate underlying pathology.
Evaluating the JVP allows healthcare professionals to:
- Assess the central venous pressure: An elevated JVP indicates increased central venous pressure, which could be due to several underlying conditions. These may include heart failure, fluid overload, or even reduced cardiac output.
- Identify abnormalities in the right heart function: By observing the JVP waveform, clinicians can identify issues with the right atrium and right ventricle, such as tricuspid valve disorders or atrial fibrillation.
- Evaluate the effectiveness of treatment: Monitoring the JVP during treatment can help assess the success of interventions like diuretics, inotropes, or vasopressors.
List of Diseases Associated with Abnormal JVP
- Congestive heart failure (CHF): A condition in which the heart is unable to pump blood effectively, leading to fluid buildup in the lungs, liver, and extremities. Elevated JVP is commonly observed due to increased pressure in the right atrium and ventricle.
- Tricuspid valve disorders: Dysfunction of the tricuspid valve, either regurgitation (backflow of blood) or stenosis (narrowing), can lead to abnormal JVP waveforms reflecting the right heart’s dysfunction.
- Pericardial effusion: The buildup of excess fluid between the heart and the pericardium, causing compression of the heart and impaired filling. JVP may exhibit Kussmaul’s sign in this condition.
- Cardiac tamponade: A life-threatening condition where fluid accumulates in the pericardial sac, leading to compression of the heart and impaired filling. JVP may also show Kussmaul’s sign in this case.
- Superior vena cava (SVC) syndrome: Obstruction of the SVC, either due to a tumor or thrombosis, can cause a markedly elevated JVP due to increased venous pressure.
- Atrial fibrillation: An irregular and rapid heart rate that increases the risk of stroke and heart failure. The absence of an ‘a’ wave in the JVP waveform indicates this condition.
- Constrictive pericarditis: Inflammation and thickening of the pericardium, restricting the heart’s diastolic expansion. A prominent ‘y’ descent in the JVP waveform may be observed.
- Pulmonary hypertension: Elevated pressure in the pulmonary circulation can lead to increased strain on the right ventricle, which may be reflected in an elevated JVP.
- Right ventricular myocardial infarction: A heart attack affecting the right ventricle, which can impair its function and lead to elevated JVP.
- Restrictive cardiomyopathy: A condition in which the heart muscle becomes stiff and less flexible, impairing its ability to fill with blood. JVP abnormalities may be observed.
- Tricuspid atresia: A congenital heart defect in which the tricuspid valve fails to develop, leading to a lack of communication between the right atrium and right ventricle. Elevated JVP can be seen in this condition.
- Ebstein’s anomaly: A rare congenital heart defect affecting the tricuspid valve, which can lead to abnormal JVP waveforms due to dysfunction of the right heart.
- Hypervolemia: Excessive fluid volume in the body, which can lead to elevated central venous pressure and increased JVP.
- Nephrotic syndrome: A kidney disorder causing excessive protein loss in urine, leading to fluid retention and edema. This condition may also present with elevated JVP.
- Cor pulmonale: Right-sided heart failure due to long-standing lung disease or pulmonary hypertension, resulting in elevated JVP.
- Cardiac tumors: Tumors in the right heart chambers or affecting the tricuspid valve may cause JVP abnormalities by obstructing blood flow or impairing valve function.
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD): A progressive lung disease that can cause cor pulmonale, leading to elevated JVP.
- Pulmonary embolism: A blood clot in the pulmonary arteries that can increase pressure in the pulmonary circulation, subsequently causing right ventricular strain and elevated JVP.
- Heart block: A delay or complete block in the electrical impulses that control the heartbeat. Depending on the severity and location, heart block may cause JVP abnormalities.
- Intracardiac shunts: Abnormal connections between the heart’s chambers, such as atrial septal defects or ventricular septal defects, can cause blood to bypass or mix between the left and right heart. These shunts may lead to volume overload, increased pressure in the right heart, and elevated JVP.
|Raised JVP, normal waveform|
|Raised JVP, absent pulsation|
|Large ‘a’ wave (increased atrial contraction pressure)|
|Cannon ‘a’ wave (atria contracting against closed tricuspid valve)|
|Absent ‘a’ wave (no unifocal atrial depolarisation)||
|Large ‘v’ wave (c–v wave)||
|Absent ‘x’ descent||
|Prominent ‘x’ descent||
|Slow ‘y’ descent|
|Prominent & deep ‘y’ descent||
|Parodoxical JVP (Kussmaul’s sign: JVP rises with inspiration, drops with expiration)|