1. Upper limb venous thromboses are considered to be a rare event, but in large hospitals with a lot of patients who receive aggressive intravenous therapy the number of thromboses seem to increase.
2. We have analysed all the cases of upper limb venous thrombosis which occurred at the Essen University Hospital between the years of 1992–1996. All patients were examined using colour Doppler sonography.
3. Out of 827 patients that were examined, a thrombosis was diagnosed in 334 cases. The subclavian vein was involved in 69% of all thromboses. Isolated jugular vein thrombosis was found in 17% of the thromboses, combined thromboses of the jugular and subclavian vein in 19%. In 182 cases the patients were treated for primarily a malignant illness. In 96 cases we found an association with venous port-systems or central venous catheters.
4. More than 40000 patients a year were treated at the university hospital. Considering this huge number of patients the thrombosis of the upper limb is still rare. The use of colour Doppler sonography allows an early and safe diagnosis of the thrombosis without straining the patient.