Jugular Vein Distention (JVD): Causes, Assessment, and More

What Is Jugular Vein Distension?

The jugal vein is located at the base of your neck just above your Adam’s apple. It carries blood from the heart to all parts of your body. A jugal vein may become enlarged or even rupture due to a number of factors:

1) Heart disease : When there is a blockage in one part of the heart, it can cause damage to other organs such as the brain and lungs.

2) Diabetes : Diabetic neuropathy is a condition where nerves in the hands and feet are affected.

This can result in numbness, tingling, weakness, and loss of sensation.

3) Arrhythmia : An irregular heartbeat can lead to a jugal vein bursting open causing pain and difficulty breathing.

4) Cancer : Certain types of cancer such as leukemia or lymphoma can cause abnormal growths in the veins that drain blood from these areas.

5) Infection : Viruses, bacteria, fungi, parasites and worms can affect the veins.

These infections can cause swelling or bleeding in the veins.

6) Injury : Any type of injury to the chest area including car accidents, falls, sports injuries and other trauma can cause a jugal vein to burst open resulting in pain and difficulty breathing.

What Does Jugular Vein Distention (JVD) Suggest?

Many people are not aware that there are two jugular veins in the neck. The left and right jugular veins drain blood from the brain, face, arms and upper chest into the heart. If the left jugular vein is distended it can be a sign of heart failure or cardiomyopathy. If the right jugular vein is distended it can be a sign of the upper part of the lung not functioning properly (a condition called cor pulmonale). Large neck vein distention can also be caused by:

1) Sitting up or standing for a long time.

This increases blood flow to the brain and can result in JVD.

2) Certain medicines such as a blood pressure medicine called methyldopa (Aldomet).

3) An infection in the lungs or heart called endocarditis.

4) Blood clots in the veins of the lungs or heart.

5) Certain cancers such as lymphoma or leukaemia.

6) A hole in the heart (atrial septic defect).

7) Carcinoid syndrome.

How Is Jugular Vein Distention (JVD) Diagnosed?

Your doctor will feel your neck and look for any signs of a swollen vein. They may also order blood and urine tests to help make a diagnosis.

How Is Jugular Vein Distention (JVD) Treated?

Most types of jugal vein distention are not life-threatening and are treated with medicines. If your JVD is caused by heart failure or cardiomyopathy, you may require other treatments such as medications, exercise, or surgery. In some cases, a heart transplant may be required.

Sources & references used in this article:

Prognostic significance of ultrasound-assessed jugular vein distensibility in heart failure by P Pellicori, A Kallvikbacka-Bennett, R Dierckx, J Zhang… – Heart, 2015 – heart.bmj.com

Jugular vein ultrasound and pulmonary oedema in patients with suspected congestive heart failure by T Jang, C Aubin, R Naunheim, LM Lewis… – European Journal of …, 2011 – journals.lww.com

Jugular Venous Distention (JVD) by S Gopal, S Nagalli – 2020 – europepmc.org

Sonographic assessment of jugular venous distension and B-type natriuretic peptide levels in patients with dyspnoea by T Jang, C Aubin, R Naunheim, LM Lewis… – Emergency Medicine …, 2012 – emj.bmj.com

Short-and long-term prognostic implications of jugular venous distension in patients hospitalized with acute heart failure by F Chernomordik, A Berkovitch… – The American journal of …, 2016 – Elsevier

Revisiting a classical clinical sign: jugular venous ultrasound by K Chauhan, DD Schocken – Hospital Physician, 2005 – … WHITE COMMUNICATIONS, INC.

The Imprecision of Sonographic Assessment of Jugular Venous Distension Among Novice Operators by P Pellicori, A Kallvikbacka-Bennett, J Zhang… – International journal of …, 2014 – Elsevier

Jugular venous distension on ultrasound: sensitivity and specificity for heart failure in patients with dyspnea by T Jang, C Aubin, AH Kaji – Journal of Medical Ultrasound, 2013 – Elsevier