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IJV thrombophlebitis: be wary of the occult


A 43-year-old woman was referred to the Ear, Nose and Throat Department with a 3-day history of left-sided neck pain and swelling associated with fevers and night sweats. She also reported a cough, oral thrush and a dental extraction more than a month previously. A CT scan of the neck with contrast revealed left internal jugular vein (IJV) thrombophlebitis and the patient was initially managed for suspected Lemierre’s syndrome. Subsequent investigations revealed a locally advanced metastatic colorectal adenocarcinoma as the cause of her thrombosis, which was deemed inoperable. The patient was referred to oncology and commenced on palliative chemotherapy.

The incidence of thrombophlebitis in patients with cancer is high. Although the IJV is a relatively uncommon site of thrombus formation, IJV thrombophlebitis is associated with significant morbidity and mortality. As it may be the first manifestation of an occult malignancy, a neoplastic cause should always be considered.

  • ear
  • nose and throat/otolaryngology
  • oncology
  • surgery

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