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What Are the Supraclavicular Lymph Nodes?

Mary McMahon
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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The supraclavicular lymph nodes are collection points for the lymphatic system that are located just above the clavicle. The body is filled with lymph nodes stationed at various key points to collect and process lymph as it drains and moves through the body. In the case of the these lymph nodes, the nodes serve as a collection point for lymph that drains from the abdomen and chest. Like other lymph nodes, the supraclavicular lymph nodes provide important warning signs about problems going on inside the body.

These lymph nodes are part of the larger family of cervical lymph nodes, the cluster of nodes located in the neck. There are a number of points for lymphatic drainage in the neck. Many patients are familiar with the location of some of their cervical nodes because they are usually felt during exams. The lymph nodes under the jaw in particular can provide important clinical information.

People can feel these lymph nodes by placing their fingers in the depression directly above the collarbone, approximately in the middle of the area between the neck and the shoulder. In healthy individuals, the nodes may be small and difficult to palpate. People who are sick may have swollen nodes, a sign that the immune system is working in overtime to address illness.

Certain abdominal cancers can cause swelling of the supraclavicular lymph nodes. Infections of the abdomen and thorax are also linked with an increase in size. Virchow's node is a particularly notable example of a lymph node that can be palpated during a physical exam. If a doctor identifies swelling in this node, it can be a sign that a patient is having a medical problem and that additional testing is needed to learn more about the origins of the swelling.

The left and right supraclavicular lymph nodes provide drainage from different areas of the body. When people are ill, both nodes may be swollen, but it is also possible for a single node to exhibit signs of swelling, especially in the case of cancers. If the node is swollen and cancer is suspected, it may be removed or sampled for inspection in a lymph node biopsy with the goal of determining whether or not cancer cells are present inside the node. If they are, it indicates that the cancer has metastasized. This will direct the course of treatment used to address the cancer, as surgery to remove the growth may not be enough.

What Should I Do Before Surgery To Ensure Minimal Hysterectomy Swelling

There are steps that a woman can take before getting surgery to make sure that swelling after hysterectomy is minimal. Obesity is linked to abnormal post-surgical healing. Losing weight can help heal and decrease swelling. 

Smoking is linked to greater chances of post-surgical complications and delayed healing. A longer healing duration means an extended period for swelling too. Women planning to undergo a hysterectomy should quit smoking before the surgery. 

How Diet Helps Reduce Swelling After Hysterectomy 

Dietary modifications can also play a crucial role in speeding up the process of recovery following a surgical procedure. As the hysterectomy procedure involves the abdominal region, it is essential to take care of diet. Eating a well-balanced diet including lots of proteins and fruits and vegetables can help speed up recovery.

Most women complain of having constipation after the surgery. So, to avoid such complications, it is essential to incorporate high-fiber foods or fiber supplements into the diet.

Adding anti-inflammatory foods such as turmeric and ginger can also fasten up the healing process and remove swelling from the surgery site. Taking plenty of fluids, primarily water, can also be beneficial in lowering the swelling. Copious amounts of water will keep you hydrated and also prevent post-surgical constipation. 

Risks Associated With Abdominal Hysterectomy

A hysterectomy is generally a safe procedure, and complications are rare. However, as with any surgery, hysterectomy has a few inherent risks, including blood clots, infection, bleeding, and bowel blockage.

Any persistent abnormality should be reported to the doctor as soon as possible. Conditions that you must carefully observe include severe pain and strong-smelling bleeding from the vagina (can be white discharge), red discharge from the incision site and stitches, severe problems with urination, constipation, persistent fever, and shortness of breath. 

How Long Does It Take for Swelling To Go Away After Hysterectomy?

The healing process varies from individual to individual. However, it typically takes several weeks for hysterectomy swelling to reduce. It may take 6 to 8 weeks before puffiness of the abdomen is alleviated.

The lymphatic system is a network of organs and tissues that runs throughout the human body and plays a key role in allowing the immune system to fight back against diseases and support the circulatory system. It includes the spleen, the thymus, the tonsils, a complex series of lymphatic vessels, and the lymph nodes. 

These small glands are at critical junctures around the body, such as the neck, pelvis, chest, stomach, and armpits, and are connected by the lymphatic vessels. An average healthy adult human being will have somewhere around four hundred and fifty total lymph nodes in their body overall. 

How Do Supraclavicular Lymph Nodes Work?

The lymph fluid carried through the nodes and their connected vessels sweeps away waste products produced by other cells, excess fats, unneeded proteins, and various foreign bodies like bacteria and viruses. The lymphatic system will filter out these contaminants to prevent the blood supply from becoming clogged or septic. 

Lymph nodes are also a major location of B-cells and T-cells, or lymphocytes, a pair of immune cells critical to identifying dangerous infectious agents. B-cells will tag bacteria with their antibodies, signaling other immune cells to remove the tagged microbes. The T-cells assist in eliminating infections and storing the body’s memory of other infections the immune system has encountered in the past. 

What do Abnormal Lymph Nodes Indicate?

Swollen lymph nodes in a particular area of the body indicate that there’s been an increase in lymphocyte activity in that region, and usually means that the body is fighting off an infection. The possibilities range from a minor seasonal illness to a variety of potentially fatal diseases- it can even be an early symptom of some types of cancer. 

Certain vaccinations will often cause lymph nodes to swell in regions close to the injection site as the body’s immune response is activated by the weakened or dead versions of the infectious agents they contain. 

The Study of Supraclavicular Lymph Nodes

A Virchow’s node refers specifically to the supraclavicular lymph nodes found on the left side of the neck. These nodes are what medical professionals use to identify what is known as the Troisier sign. Both terms are named for pathologists who contributed greatly to modern medical science’s understanding of the significance these nodes can play in cancer diagnosis. 

The former is named after a German physician, Rudolf Virchow, who first documented the strong association between gastric cancer and this particular set of lymph nodes in the year 1848. The latter refers to the French surgeon Charles Emile Troisier, who confirmed that these symptoms could also signify other types of cancer occurring within the abdomen almost a full half-century later, in 1889. 

The Troisier sign is the ability to feel the presence of a Virchow’s node that is unusually large and hard to the touch on the patient’s neck. It is a primary method of diagnosis for Hodgkin’s lymphoma, as well as cancer in the kidneys, stomach, testicles, and ovaries. Ailments in the chest, such as cancers of the lungs, breasts, and esophagus, can also affect the Virchow’s nodes through their connection to the thoracic duct. 

How are Problems with the Lymph Nodes Diagnosed?

The supraclavicular lymph nodes are a network of lymph nodes located in the neck. As their name implies- “supra”, meaning above, and “clavicular”, referring to the clavicle or collarbone- these lymph nodes are found right above the collarbone, where it meets the base of the neck. 

Doctors will frequently feel the lymph nodes in a patient’s neck for signs of swelling, as this can be a common early indication of illness. The supraclavicular lymph nodes are often the first tangible sign of malignant tumors occurring in the internal organs. There they are comparatively hidden and can all too often allow them to remain undetected until reaching dangerously advanced stages. 

Healthy supraclavicular lymph nodes should be small and pliant enough that they cannot be detected by simply touching the neck. If an unexpected, prolonged swelling of these nodes occurs in someone who is not fighting off an illness or infection, they should seek medical attention.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a The Health Board researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments

By anon287612 — On Aug 26, 2012

I have a swelling above my left collarbone below neck and towards the shoulder, slightly and rarely painful. I was worried about lymph node but the doctor felt it and said it was muscle disorder and there is no lymph node there. I have some other neuro problems, but no infection.

By JaneAir — On Jun 22, 2011

@starrynight - I can see why that would make you and your friend feel bit skittish about swollen lymph nodes. However if you have swollen lymph nodes along with symptoms of a cold you probably don't need to worry about cancer.

It is usually a good idea to go to the doctor anyway though. Swollen lymph nodes are a symptom of an infection and you may need an antibiotic!

By starrynight — On Jun 20, 2011

Swollen lymph nodes in the neck are just about the worst part of being sick. They are so painful. It also always makes me a little bit nervous when my lymph nodes are swollen because I know that's symptom of lymphoma.

A good friend of mine had a grandfather who passed away from lymphoma. Ever since then my friend has been extremely paranoid about lymph nodes and I think his paranoia has rubbed off!

Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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