Internal jugular venous rupture after head and neck surgery is a rare but important condition to recognize. The Toronto General Hospital experience of this condition, together with its identification and management is reported.
Jugular vein rupture should be considered in patients undergoing primary tumour excision with modified or functional neck dissection complicated by a pharyngo-cutaneous fistula. Typically, bleeding is venous and occurs repeatedly. However, haemorrhage may be substantial and life-threatening. Treatment requires exploration and ligation of the venous system. The carotid artery should be assessed and protected at surgery, since there is a likelihood of a carotid blowout as the conditions have a common aetiology. It is important to distinguish jugular vein haemorrhage from carotid arterial rupture, since the former has a far better outcome if treated properly.