internal jugular vein
The internal jugular vein (IJV) is the major venous return from the brain, upper face and neck.
Origin and course
It is formed by the union of inferior petrosal and sigmoid dural venous sinuses in or just distal to the jugular foramen (forming the jugular bulb). It descends in the carotid sheath with the internal carotid artery. The vagus nerve (CN X) lies between the two.
After receiving tributaries from the face and neck (listed below) it continues to descend before descending into the thorax, usually posterior to the space between the two heads of the sternocleidomastoid muscle, before uniting with the subclavian vein to form the brachiocephalic vein.
- inferior petrosal sinus (origin)
- sigmoid dural venous sinus (origin)
- pharyngeal veins
- common facial vein (which drains facial vein and anterior branch of retromandibular vein)
- lingual vein
- superior thyroid vein
- middle thyroid vein
A handy mnemonic to recall the internal jugular vein is:
- Medical Schools Let Fun People In
- surrounded by accompanying lymph nodes
- relation to internal carotid artery
- C2: posteriorly
- C3: posterolaterally
- C4: laterally
- vagus nerve (CN X) always situated between the ICA and IJV
- anteriorly (i.e. is crossed by these structures)
- posteriorly (from superior to inferior as the IJV descends in the neck)