Phlebitis and Thrombophlebitis

  • Medical Author:
    Siamak N. Nabili, MD, MPH

    Dr. Nabili received his undergraduate degree from the University of California, San Diego (UCSD), majoring in chemistry and biochemistry. He then completed his graduate degree at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). His graduate training included a specialized fellowship in public health where his research focused on environmental health and health-care delivery and management.

  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

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What are the complications of phlebitis?

Complications of phlebitis may include local infection and abscess formation, clot formation, and progression to a deep venous thrombosis and pulmonary embolism. When pronounced deep venous thrombophlebitis has seriously damaged the leg veins, this can lead to post-phlebitic syndrome. Post-phlebitic syndrome is characterized by chronic swelling of the involved leg and can be associated with leg pain, discoloration, and ulcers.

Can phlebitis be prevented?

Simple measures can be taken to prevent phlebitis, although, sometimes it cannot be avoided.

Preventive measures of phlebitis include:

  • early mobilization after surgery,
  • leg exercises during a long car travel or airplane ride,
  • good nursing hygiene and prompt removal of intravenous catheters, and
  • smoking cessation.

Compression stockings are required in many patients after an episode of phlebitis, especially deep venous phlebitis. These, and other measures, reduce post-phlebitic swelling and the risk of recurrent phlebitis. In most hospitalized patients who have limited mobility or have had recent orthopedic surgery, a low dose of blood thinners (heparin, fondaparinux, enoxaparin [Lovenox] or other agents ) may be injected routinely in order to prevent blood clot formation by keeping the blood relatively thin. This preventive dose is generally lower than the doses used for treating existing blood clots. A widely used alternative is the use of intermittent compression garments on the extremities during periods of high risk.

Medically reviewed by Robert J. Bryg, MD; Board Certified Internal Medicine with subspecialty in Cardiovascular Disease

REFERENCE:

"Thrombophlebitis"
MedlinePlus, National Library of Medicine

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 2/19/2015

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