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Phlebitis – A Serious and Sometimes Fatal Condition

Phlebitis is a medical term indicating that there is inflammation in the vein. Most commonly it affects the superficial leg veins and it is associated with localised swelling — a lump- which is red, tender and warm and sometimes the lump actually feels hot and painful.

Often, phlebitis comes on out of the blue for no apparent reason but very occasionally I see phlebitis as complication of some cancers, intravenous arm catheters used in hospital — drips – or sometimes as a reaction to some very irritant intravenous injections such as chemotherapy.  The standard case of superficial leg vein phlebitis seen by a GP does not need antibiotics. Antibiotics may do more harm than good.

phlebitisUntil recently, phlebitis in superficial leg veins was thought to be a rather trivial condition and many doctors dismissed phlebitis as being of no real significance. Even the term phlebitis is often misunderstood and misused. Many people including doctors describe any discomfort in their veins as being phlebitis. To be absolutely sure that the problem is phlebitis, a duplex ultrasound scan is needed — the ultrasound appearance of phlebitis is characteristic and diagnostic.

Ultrasound has also revealed that a very important group of people with phlebitis either already have a DVT or they are at risk of developing a deep vein thrombosis. The inflammation in the wall of the veins affected by phlebitis activates clotting of the blood inside these veins. This clot can extend or spread from the superficial vein into the deep vein. So this is another very important reason why everyone with phlebitis should have a duplex ultrasound scan.

A duplex scan is the only way to correctly identify people who already have a DVT and who need treatment to prevent that clot leaving the leg, travelling around the body and lodging in the lung — a serious sometimes fatal condition called pulmonary embolism. A duplex scan will also determine whether these people with phlebitis are at risk of a DVT and who need preventative treatment. So the first important message is that everyone with phlebitis should have a duplex ultrasound scan.

Phlebitis is not a trivial condition, it can be serious and may cause a Deep Vein Thrombosis. Everyone with phlebitis should have a duplex ultrasound scan to confirm the correct diagnosis, to check for DVT and to guide the correct treatment.

Now, if you’re worried about your veins and would like a confidential chat please do get in touch. Our advisors are very happy to offer simple advice by telephone or email for free and without obligation. You can call and book an appointment direct without a referral from your GP on 01935 873951.

The VeinCare Centre also offers a screening assessment with our vascular technologist. For £25 you can have a scan with Wendy Parsons. She is not a doctor and so she  cannot give you medical advice but she can check your deep veins and your varicose veins and give you an idea of how bad they are. If you would like to have an appointment with Wendy please call 01935 873 951