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Diseases & Conditions

Phlebitis

What is phlebitis?

Phlebitis, also called superficial venous thrombosis or superficial thrombophlebitis, is a blood clot that develops in a vein close to the surface of the skin. These types of blood clots do not usually travel to the lungs unless they move from the superficial system (just below the skin) into the deep venous system (deep vein thrombosis). However, phlebitis may cause pain and warrant treatment.

When should I seek treatment for phlebitis?

If phlebitis is causing pain or interfering with daily activities, you may decide to seek treatment.

What are the treatment options for phlebitis?

The long-term goals of treatment are to reduce symptoms and reduce the risk of complications. Your health care provider will recommend the treatment option that is right for you.

The main goal of initial treatment is to control pain and inflammation. You will likely be prescribed pain medication and an anti-inflammatory medication such as ibuprofen. Rarely is anticoagulation with medications such as Coumadin or heparin warranted. Much of this process is self-limited, with complete resolution of symptoms within a few weeks.

When is surgery necessary for phlebitis?

Surgery may be necessary when phlebitis affects circulation and completion of everyday activities. It also may be necessary to prevent the condition from progressing into deep vein thrombosis or a pulmonary embolism. Surgical removal or stripping of the vein is rarely needed but may be recommended in some situations to treat superficial venous thrombosis or phlebitis.

Surgical treatments are performed in the hospital or outpatient setting by a vascular surgeon.

Ligation and stripping often are performed in combination. During surgery, the dilated vein is either removed or tied off through small skin incisions. Some surgical techniques include removing the saphenous vein, or closing the vein with a special catheter that applies radiofrequency, laser or thermal energy. In some cases, the vein can be removed during a minimally invasive surgical procedure called endoscopic vein removal.

References and resources:

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