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Superficial thrombophlebitis

Thrombophlebitis - superficial

Thrombophlebitis is a swollen or inflamed vein due to a blood clot. Superficial refers to veins just below the skin's surface.

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Superficial thrombophlebitis
Superficial thrombophlebitis

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Causes

This condition may occur after injury to the vein. It may also occur after having medicines given into your veins. If you have a high risk for blood clots, you may develop them for no apparent reason.

Risks for thrombophlebitis include:

Symptoms

Symptoms may include any of the following:

Exams and Tests

Your health care provider will diagnose this condition based mainly on the appearance of the affected area. Frequent checks of the pulse, blood pressure, temperature, skin condition, and blood flow may be needed.

Ultrasound of the blood vessels helps confirm the condition.

If there are signs of an infection, skin or blood cultures may be done.

Treatment

To reduce discomfort and swelling, your provider may recommend that you:

If you have a catheter or IV line, it will likely be removed if it is the cause of the thrombophlebitis.

Medicines called NSAIDs, such as ibuprofen, may be prescribed to reduce pain and swelling.

If clots in the deeper veins are also present, your provider may prescribe medicines to thin your blood. These medicines are called anticoagulants. Antibiotics are prescribed if you have an infection.

Surgical removal (phlebectomy), stripping, or sclerotherapy of the affected vein may be needed. These treat large varicose veins or to prevent thrombophlebitis in high-risk people.

Outlook (Prognosis)

This is often a short-term condition that does not cause complications. Symptoms often go away in 1 to 2 weeks. Hardness of the vein may remain for much longer.

Possible Complications

Complications are rare. Possible problems may include the following:

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call for an appointment with your provider if you develop symptoms of this condition.

Also call if you already have the condition and your symptoms worsen or do not get better with treatment.

Prevention

In the hospital, swollen or inflamed veins can be prevented by:

When possible, avoid keeping your legs and arms still for long periods. Move your legs often or take a stroll during long plane trips or car trips. Try to avoid sitting or lying down for long periods without getting up and moving about.

Related Information

Blood clots
Intravenous
Varicose veins
Stomach cancer
Pancreatic cancer
Deep vein thrombosis
Thromboangiitis obliterans
Cellulitis
Septic shock
Pulmonary embolus

References

Ginsberg JS. Peripheral venous disease. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman-Cecil Medicine. 25th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2016:chap 81.

Wasan S. Superficial thrombophlebitis and its management. In: Sidawy AN, Perler BA, eds. Rutherford's Vascular Surgery and Endovascular Therapy. 9th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2019:chap 150.

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Review Date: 6/10/2018  

Reviewed By: Deepak Sudheendra, MD, FSIR, RPVI, Assistant Professor of Interventional Radiology & Surgery at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine, with an expertise in Vascular Interventional Radiology & Surgical Critical Care, Philadelphia, PA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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