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Recognise the signs of Phlebitis

by – May 31, 2016

Phlebitis is not a commonly known condition, so it is highly unlikely you would be able to recognise the symptoms or be aware of the serious implications this condition can have if misdiagnosed or left untreated.

What is Phlebitis?

Phlebitis is the clotting of blood within the veins underneath the surface of the skin, almost always in varicose veins that have not been treated. These blood clots can cause the vein to become inflamed, often leading to redness, tenderness and swelling in the leg.

Phlebitis is NOT an infection – and so antibiotics have no effect on it. Indeed, as it is a clot, it is more correctly called “superficial venous thrombosis”.

However, published guidelines from the USA and the UK show that if the clot is near the deep vein, there is approximately a 1% risk of the clot going to the lung – a condition called pulmonary embolism.

Please see the references:

http://www.chestnet.org/Guidelines-and-Resources/CHEST-Guideline-Topic-Areas/Pulmonary-Vascular

http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1365-2141.2012.09249.x/pdf

What are the main signs and symptoms of Phlebitis?

Phlebitis on leg

Some of the main signs and symptoms to look out for are:

  • redness, tenderness and local swelling
  • often a lump or tube that can be felt through the skin
  • increased pain when pressure applied to the affected area
  • usually on leg – but can be arm

What to do if you think you might have Phlebitis?

Phlebitis is not an infection and therefore antibiotics should not be prescribed as a treatment.

Most patients with Phlebitis are not at risk of Pulmonary Emboli. However some are. It depends on where the clot is in the vein. The only way to confidently diagnose Phlebitis is for the patient to have a Duplex Ultrasound Scan. This should be performed by a qualified Vascular Technologist who specialises in the diagnosis and treatment of veins.

Only once this scan has been completed, is it possible to make sure that the correct treatment plan is started. This might be non-steroidal anti-inflammatory tablet and stockings, but it might be anticoagulation if the clot is within 5 cm of the deep veins.

This duplex ultrasound scan can also be used to find out the underlying cause of the Phlebitis. The underlying cause is usually varicose veins or ‘hidden varicose veins’.

Facts about Phlebitis

  • Phlebitis is inflammation of the vein wall caused by blood clot in the superficial veins
  • Antibiotics should not be prescribed to treat Phlebitis
  • Diagnosis must be with a Duplex Ultrasound Scan
  • Correct treatment can only be decided after scan results
  • Clots can travel to the lungs if not treated correctly

For more information about phlebitis and how it can be diagnosed and treated, please see the information on our website. Alternatively, contact us using the contact form, email at info@thewhiteleyclinic.co.uk or call us on 0330 058 1850

The contents of this site are for informational purposes only and are meant to be discussed with your doctor or other qualified health care professional before being acted on. Always seek the advice of a doctor or other licensed health care professional regarding any questions you have about your medical condition(s) and treatment(s). This site and the information provided is not a substitute for medical advice.