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Thrombophlebitis
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Thrombophlebitis

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HEART & BLOOD

Cardiovascular System

Thrombo means "clot." Phlebitis is inflammation of a vein. Thrombophlebitis occurs mostly in the legs. It is a circulatory problem that develops when a blood clot slows the circulation in a vein, either right under the skin or deeper in the leg. On rare occasions, thrombophlebitis can affect veins in your arms.

Treatment

If thrombophlebitis occurs in a superficial vein, your doctor may recommend self-care steps that include applying heat to the sore area, elevating your leg and using a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug. The condition usually subsides within a week or two.

Your doctor may also recommend these treatments for thrombophlebitis:

  • Medications. If you have deep vein thrombosis, injection of a blood-thinning (anticoagulant) medication, such as heparin, will prevent clots from growing. The availability of a type of heparin called low-molecular-weight heparin has allowed treatment without hospitalization. After the heparin treatment, taking the anticoagulant warfarin (Coumadin, Panwarfin) for several months continues to prevent clots from growing. Sometimes, you may need a drug to dissolve the clot.

  • Support stockings. These help prevent recurrent swelling and reduce the chances of complications of deep vein thrombosis. Your doctor may recommend prescription-strength support hose.

  • Filter. In rare instances, insertion of a filter into the main vein in your abdomen (vena cava) is needed to prevent clots that break loose in leg veins from lodging in your lungs.

  • Varicose vein stripping. Your doctor can surgically remove varicose veins that cause pain or recurrent thrombophlebitis in a procedure called varicose vein stripping. This procedure involves removing a long vein through small incisions, and is an outpatient procedure for most people. Usually, you're able to resume normal activities in two weeks or less. Removing the vein won't affect circulation in your leg because veins deeper in the leg take care of the increased volumes of blood. This procedure is also commonly done for cosmetic reasons.

  • Clot removal or bypass. Sometimes, surgery is necessary to remove an acute clot blocking a pelvic vein or an abdominal vein. To treat chronic, disabling blocking of a vein, your doctor may recommend surgery to bypass the vein, or a procedure called angioplasty to open up the vein. Once angioplasty has opened up the vein, your doctor inserts a stent — a very tiny, lattice-work coil — to keep the vein open.

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Last Modified : 03/15/08 12:26 AM