Free flap failure secondary to internal jugular vein thrombosis (IJVT) is a significant complication after head and neck reconstructive surgery. A consensus has not yet been reached among reconstructive surgeons regarding the treatment of IJVT.
We retrospectively evaluated the incidence of IJVT in 118 patients who underwent free flap reconstruction at Hyogo Cancer Center, Akashi, Japan. The occurrence of IJVT-related flap circulation crisis and pulmonary thromboembolism (PTE) was studied. This study was approved by the institutional ethics committee, and written informed consent was obtained from each patient.
From 118 patients who underwent head and neck reconstructive surgery, we included 116 internal jugular veins (IJVs) preserved after neck dissection in the present study. IJVT was confirmed in 25 (21.6%) IJVs from 23 patients. One patient (0.8%) developed venous congestion due to IJVT, which resulted in total flap necrosis. Two patients (1.7%) exhibited PTE associated with IJVT. They were treated with direct oral anticoagulants for 3 months and were discharged without any sequelae.
Our results suggest that IJVT after head and neck reconstructive surgery caused not only flap circulation crisis but also PTE. Reconstructive surgeons should be aware of the potential risks due to serious complications associated with IJVT.

Copyright © 2020 British Association of Plastic, Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgeons. Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.