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Phlebitis: 7 Things Your Doctor Should Know

Phlebitis is a term that is used by doctors and the public and there are many important facts that you and your doctor should know. Here are 7 important facts that even many doctors get wrong.

  1. Phlebitis is not caused by an infection and antibiotics are not necessary. Recently reviews in the medical literature suggest that antibiotic are frequently prescribed for phlebitis. Not only is this ineffective, but costs our healthcare system and may complications such as diarrhoea and my contribute to antibiotic resistance.
  2. Phlebitis most commonly affects the leg veins and it causes swelling, tenderness and redness along the vein. Less common sites include the arm and chest.
  3. The diagnosis requires a duplex ultrasound scan. Conditions such as cellulitis or lymphangitis can mimic phlebitis so confirming the correct diagnosis with a duplex ultrasound scan is essential.
  4. The fundamental problem causing the inflammation in the vein is clot formation which can spread to the deep veins causing a deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolus. Many experts suggest that the term phlebitis should be replaced by the term superficial venous thrombosis.
  5. The duplex ultrasound scan should not only check the area that is painful, but both legs should be checked for deep vein thrombosis. When someone has phlebitis they can be in a so-called hypercoagulable state in which the blood is sticky. That means that clots can develop elsewhere in the body, particularly in the deep veins of the other leg.
  6. Phlebitis in varicose veins can recur and people with varicose veins and phlebitis should have treatment to deal with their varicose veins.
  7. Phlebitis without varicose veins may indicate a disorder of blood clotting or an unsuspected cancer. Such patients should be investigated by a haematologist.

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If you are concerned about phlebitis, give us a call on 01935 873951 or use the contact form.