Thrombophlebitis is inflammation in a vein in an area where a blood clot has formed. Often the term thrombophlebitis is shortened to "phlebitis."

There are two types of phlebitis.

  • Superficial phlebitis occurs when a blood clot and inflammation develop in a small vein near the surface of the skin. This type of phlebitis rarely causes a serious problem.
  • Deep vein phlebitis occurs when a blood clot and inflammation are deep inside a vein in a leg, the lower abdomen (pelvis), or, rarely, the arm. In deep vein phlebitis, a blood clot may break away and travel to the lungs, where it may block a blood vessel (a condition known as pulmonary embolus).

Symptoms of deep vein phlebitis may include swelling, warmth, pain, or tenderness in the affected area (most often a leg). Chest pain that occurs with deep vein phlebitis may mean a blood clot has traveled to the lung.

Deep vein phlebitis requires evaluation and treatment by a doctor. It is usually treated with medications that prevent clotting (anticoagulants).

Last Updated: February 5, 2010

Author: Robin Parks, MS

Medical Review: Anne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine & David A. Szalay, MD - Vascular Surgery

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