Article: Thrombophlebitis

Thrombophlebitis is phlebitis (vein inflammation) related to a blood clot or thrombus. When it occurs repeatedly in different locations, it is known as "Thrombophlebitis migrans".

Causes, incidence, and risk factors

Thrombophlebitis is related to a blood clot (thrombus) in the vein. Risk factors include prolonged sitting and disorders related to blood clotting. Specific disorders associated with thrombophlebitis include superficial thrombophlebitis (affects veins near the skin surface) and deep venous thrombosis (affects deeper, larger veins).


The following symptoms are often associated with thrombophlebitis:

  • tenderness over the vein
  • pain in the part of the body affected
  • skin redness or inflammation (not always present)
  • swelling (edema) of the extremities (ankle and foot)

Signs and tests

The health care provider makes the diagnosis primarily based on the appearance of the affected area. Frequent checks of the pulse, blood pressure, temperature, skin condition, and circulation may be required.

If the cause is not readily identifiable, tests may be performed to determine the cause, including the following:

  • Doppler ultrasound
  • Extremity arteriography
  • Blood coagulation studies


For more specific recommendations, see the particular condition. In general, treatment may include the following:

  • Medications
    • analgesics (pain medications)
    • anticoagulants or blood thinners to prevent new clot formation
    • thrombolytics to dissolve an existing clot
    • nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDS) such as ibuprofen to reduce pain and inflammation
    • antibiotics (if infection is present)
    • Support stockings and wraps to reduce discomfort

The patient may be advised to do the following:

  • Elevate the affected area to reduce swelling.
  • Keep pressure off of the area to reduce pain and decrease the risk of further damage.
  • Apply moist heat to reduce inflammation and pain.
  • Surgical removal, stripping, or bypass of the vein is rarely needed but may be recommended in some situations.


Thrombophlebitis and other forms of phlebitis usually respond to prompt medical treatment.


Complications are rare, but when they occur they can be serious. The most serious complication may be the fragmentation of the blood clot and its travel to the brain, the heart or the lungs, where it may cause stroke or infarction, which may be life-threatening or disabilitating.


Routine changing of intravenous (IV) lines helps to prevent phlebitis related to IV lines. See the specific disorders associated with thrombophlebitis for other preventive measures.


  • Thrombophlebitis. MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia. Public domain text. Update Date: 4/19/2004. Updated by: Brian F. Burke M.D., Department of Internal Medicine, Munson Medical Center, Traverse City, MI. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network.
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