What Is the Jugular Venous Pressure?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Shereen Skola
  • Last Modified Date: 17 September 2019
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Jugular Venous Pressure (JVP) is an observation of the amount of pressure in the jugular vein of the neck. This is a form of indirect measurement, where the care provider assesses the patient with observation, rather than a direct measurement inside the vein itself. People with certain heart problems can exhibit abnormalities of jugular venous pressure, and highly swollen veins in the neck may indicate congestive heart failure or other serious health problems. A medical practitioner may check a patient in a routine exam or follow-up if the jugular venous pressure is a cause for concern.

Inside the jugular vein, a distinct series of pulsations occurs in connection with the heart rhythm. This vessel cannot be palpated like the artery in the neck; instead, people need to watch it to see the distinctive waves and descents of its movement. If these are out of rhythm, they indicate a problem. Likewise, an abnormally swollen jugular vein is a sign of high pressure, which is a symptom of some medical conditions.


To perform this measurement, the medical provider has the patient lie down and get comfortable, with the neck relaxed. The examination gown needs to be pulled down the chest to make the vein visible, and it may be necessary to pull the patient’s chin up slightly and tuck the hair back. After the patient is in position, the observer can shine a bright light on the right side of the neck to highlight the jugular vein and watch it pulsate. It is also possible to measure the elevation of the vein to record a specific reading in the patient’s chart.

Using measurements from the test, the observer can report jugular venous pressure in terms of centimeters of water. A similar unit of measurement can be used for direct measurement of blood pressure in medicine. Normal patients typically have a mean measurement that can range from 6 to 8, depending on age, health, and gender.

This can be part of a physical examination for a patient with suspected cardiovascular disease, or a patient in treatment who needs evaluation to determine the success of treatment. Taking a jugular venous pressure measurement requires training and practice because each examination can be slightly different, and it takes time to learn how to identify the pulsations of the jugular vein. In medical education, people have an opportunity to learn about such examinations, watch people perform them, and conduct them under supervision to develop their skills.


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