External jugular vein: anatomy, function and meaning


The external jugular vein is a superficial vein in the neck that carries blood from the parotid gland , most of the scalp, and the sides of the face, and then back to the heart. It also promotes blood flow away from the head when other major veins, such as the internal jugular vein , are compressed or blocked. Complications involving the external jugular vein are relatively rare.



All veins carry deoxygenated blood from organs, muscles, and other structures back to the heart. Veins tend to have lower blood pressure than arteries .

Although their walls are thinner, veins are typically larger in diameter than arteries and contain about 80% of the body's total blood, while arteries generally only circulate 20% of the blood .


The walls of the external jugular vein consist of three layers :

  • Adventitia shell , Or the outermost layer of a vein, it is the thickest layer of loose connective tissue that connects to other tissues in the body.
  • The middle sheath or middle layer of a vein is made up of collagen, elastic fibers, and smooth muscle.
  • The inner lining , or innermost layer of the vein, is the thinnest layer of the vein wall and consists of an internal elastic membrane and connective tissue.


The external jugular vein is formed from the junction of the posterior branch of the retromandibular vein and the posterior auricular vein below the parotid gland in the area around the corner of the jaw or jaw bone and below the atrium or ear lobe .

The external jugular vein runs from its origin at the angle of the mandible and crosses the sternocleidomastoid muscle of the neck in a diagonal line. The external jugular vein ends in the middle of the clavicle , or clavicle, where it connects with the subclavian vein. It is a relatively superficial vein that lies close to the surface of the skin below the platysma of the neck .


While the internal jugular vein is the outlet for blood deep into the neck, which is the main source of blood flow from the head, the outflow of blood from the brain, head, and face can occur in several alternative pathways, including the external jugular. vein, to compensate for compression obstructing other channels .

The external jugular vein is the superficial channel responsible for draining blood from the parotid gland (the largest salivary gland), most of the scalp, and the lateral part of the face .

The external jugular vein connects with the subclavian vein and the internal jugular vein to form the brachiocephalic vein, which flows into the superior vena cava. The superior vena cava carries deoxygenated blood from the head, neck, and arms directly to the right atrium of the heart, where it is pumped to the lungs to re-oxygenate .

Clinical relevance

Complications affecting the external jugular vein are very rare, and very few conditions have been reported in medical studies. In rare cases, external jugular vein malformations can occur and possible complications associated with them include:

  • An aneurysm , or enlargement of a blood vessel that is at least 1.5 times its normal diameter, results from the weakening of the walls of the blood vessels. It occurs more frequently in the arteries than in the veins and is rare in the external jugular vein of unknown origin. An external jugular vein aneurysm causes swelling on the side of the neck, which is usually painless and worsens when coughing, straining, bending over, or holding your breath. An aneurysm increases the risk of a vein rupturing and bleeding. Surgery may be performed to treat an external jugular vein aneurysm with excision and ligation, when the vein is removed and blood flow is blocked, or with exclusion and bypass, when the vein is closed and blood flow is redirected to another . part .
  • Hemangioma , or a benign tumor consisting of an overgrowth of blood vessels, is extremely rare in the external jugular vein, and only 10 cases have been documented in published studies. External jugular vein hemangioma can cause swelling on the side of the neck, but because the hemangioma is benign, no treatment is required. Surgical removal of the external jugular vein hemangioma may be done for cosmetic purposes to improve the appearance of the neck .
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