OBJECTIVES: Internal jugular vein (IJV) thrombosis is a rare complication of functional and selective neck dissections. It increases morbidity and may seldom be fatal. We investigated the frequency of IJV thrombosis and its relationship with the dissection technique. PATIENTS AND METHODS: We evaluated 52 functional and selective neck dissections performed in 34 male patients (mean age 57 years; range 34 to 76 years) with head and neck cancer. Dissections were mainly performed by sharp dissection (n=27) or cautery (n=25). The patients were examined by Doppler ultrasonography with respect to IJV flow and thrombosis preoperatively, and at two weeks and at 3 to 6 months postoperatively. RESULTS: In the early postoperative period, thrombosis was observed in 7.4% (n=2) of the necks treated with sharp dissection and in 4% (n=1) of the necks treated with cautery. There was no statistically significant difference between the two groups with respect to IJV thrombosis. Late Doppler examinations showed complete recanalization of all thrombosed IJVs. CONCLUSION: Our data suggest that sharp dissection or cautery techniques performed in functional neck dissections do not differ with respect to the frequency of postoperative IJV thrombosis.