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Superficial Thrombophlebitis

(Phlebitis; Thrombophlebitis)

Definition

Superficial thrombophlebitis is inflammation of a vein close to the surface of the skin. It happens most often in the leg. The condition is easily treatable. But, it can lead to more serious health concerns.

Causes

A blood clot close causes superficial thrombophlebitis.

Risk Factors

Your chances of superficial thrombophlebitis are higher for:

  • Women, mainly over 65 years old
  • An injury, mainly to the lower leg
  • Blood clotting problems
  • Sitting for long periods of time
  • Prolonged bed rest
  • History of vein problems
  • Certain cancers
  • Paralysis
  • Family history of blood clotting problems
  • Obesity
  • Pregnancy

Symptoms

Superficial thrombophlebitis may cause:

  • A cord like vein you can see. It may be tender when it’s touched. You may notice it develop over several hours to days.
  • Redness and warmth surrounding the vein.
  • Swelling around the vein.

Complications include:

Diagnosis

The doctor will ask about your symptoms and health history. You may have:

  • A physical exam
  • Blood tests
  • Imaging tests such as:

Treatment

In most cases, superficial thrombophlebitis goes away on its own after a few weeks. If needed, care may involve:

  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen
  • Exercise
  • Compression stockings
  • Warm compress on the inflamed vein
  • Elevation
  • Blood thinners
  • Procedures to remove the blood clot

Prevention

To help lower your chances of superficial thrombophlebitis:

  • Walk around the cabin and stretch your limbs every hour or so when you fly.
  • Pull over every hour or so and stretch your limbs when you drive.
RESOURCES:

American College of Phlebology
http://www.phlebology.org

Society for Vascular Surgery
https://vascular.org

CANADIAN RESOURCES:

Canadian Society for Vascular Surgery
https://vascular.ca

Health Canada
https://www.canada.ca

REFERENCES:

Superficial vein thrombosis. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at:http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T116756/Superficial-vein-thrombosis-SVT. Updated April 11, 2017. Accessed July 11, 2018.

Superficial venous thrombosis. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at: https://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/cardiovascular-disorders/peripheral-venous-disorders/superficial-venous-thrombosis. Updated March 2018. Accessed July 11, 2018.

5/4/2015 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillancehttp://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T116756/Superficial-vein-thrombosis-SVT: Scott G, Mahdi AJ, et al. Superficial vein thrombosis: a current approach to management. Br J Haematol. 2015;168(5):639-645.

Last reviewed May 2018 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Michael J. Fucci, DO, FACC  Last Updated: 7/11/2018