Internal jugular vein valves: an assessment of prevalence, morphology and competence by color Doppler echography in 240 healthy subjects

Ital J Anat Embryol. 2010;115(3):185-9.


The presence of valves in the head and neck veins is known since classical anatomical dissections. Previous studies have investigated whether jugular veins show constant valves at their ostium and whether these valves are physiologically competent, but, unluckily, these studies have reported conflicting results. Further, recent observations have raised the question whether the incompetence of jugular vein valves might play a pivotal role in neurological disorders related to venous engorgement of the brain. In this study we examined 462 internal jugular veins by using an echocolorodoppler apparatus. In particular, we assessed the presence, morphology and competence of valves at their ostium. Unilateral jugular vein valves were present in 406 cases (88%), mainly on the right side. The most frequently observed morphology (75%, 305 cases) was the two-leaflet valve, and jugular vein valves were incompetent in the huge majority of cases (365 cases, 90%). Our findings confirm the anatomical variability predicted from classical anatomical studies but, unluckily, do not provide additional evidence on the possible role of jugular vein valves in physiology and pathology. Further studies are strongly needed to determine whether these valves actually play an important role in counteracting chest venous pressure and in preventing reflux towards the brain.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Cardiovascular Physiological Phenomena*
  • Echocardiography, Doppler, Color / methods*
  • Female
  • Head / blood supply
  • Humans
  • Jugular Veins / anatomy & histology*
  • Jugular Veins / diagnostic imaging*
  • Jugular Veins / physiology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Reference Values
  • Regional Blood Flow / physiology
  • Venous Valves / anatomy & histology*
  • Venous Valves / diagnostic imaging*
  • Venous Valves / physiology