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Phlebitis

Causes | Symptoms | Treatment | Risks | Prevention

Phlebitis (superficial thrombophlebitis or SVT) is inflammation of a vein just beneath the skin due to a blood clot. The condition is diagnosed by physical examination and confirmed by Duplex Ultrasound. If there is associated fever or malaise, blood cultures may be necessary.

CAUSES OF SUPERFICIAL THROMBOPHLEBITIS

This condition may occur due to injury to the vein, or after having an intravenous (IV) line catheter.  It may also occur for no apparent reason.

Other causes of superficial thrombophlebitis include:

  • Presence of varicose veins in the legs
  • Prolonged standing or immobility such as prolonged bed rest or sitting during travel in aircrafts or
  • Automobiles
  • Infection
  • Pregnancy
  • Use of birth control pills
  • Chemical irritation of the area
  • Abnormal clotting factors in the blood (genetic)

Superficial thrombophlebitis may be associated with:

  • Certain abdominal cancers, such as colon cancer or cancer of the pancreas
  • Deep Vein Thrombosis
  • Factor V Leiden mutation
  • Prothrombin gene mutation
  • Other rare conditions such as Antithrombin III (AT-III), Protein C and Protein S deficiencies

SYMPTOMS OF SUPERFICIALTHROMBOPHLEBITIS

  • Redness of the skin (rubor)
  • Warmth to the touch (calor)
  • Localized pain (dolor)
  • Loss of function (difficulty walking)
  • Hardening of the vein (lump)
  • Cellulitis

Contact a Medical Professional if you develop any of the above symptoms, or if you already have the condition and your symptoms worsen or do not get better with treatment.

TREATMENT OF SUPERFICIAL THROMBOPHLEBITIS

The goal of treatment is to reduce the pain, control the inflammation and prevent complications. To achieve these goals, your healthcare provider may recommend:

  • Drainage of the blood clot under local anesthesia
  • Application of warm compresses
  • Wearing medical-grade compression stockings
  • Leg elevation
  • Antibiotics, analgesics and anti-inflammatory medications
  • Resituating an existing IV to a different site, if it is deemed to be the cause of the phlebitis

RISKS OF THROMBOPHLEBITIS

If undue delay occurs in treatment, the blood clot can grow in size and extend into the deeper veins, creating a more serious condition known as Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT).

PREVENTION OF SUPERFICIAL THROMBOPHLEBITIS

  • Avoid prolonged immobility
  • Move your arms and legs frequently
  • Take a stroll during prolonged air travel or car trips
  • Walk as soon as possible after surgery
  • Wear compression stockings

 

 

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