22017May

A Vascular Surgeon Discusses Thrombophlebitis

Thombophlebitis is a potentially serious condition involving a blood clot in a vein.  One of the medical specialists who deals with this disorder is a vascular surgeon.  Understanding the basics of this condition helps reduce stress in patients who require treatment for it.

What Exactly is Thrombophlebitis?

This disorder is actually a process.  The Mayo Clinic describes it as a type of inflammatory action.  The end result is a blood clot blocking at least one vein, typically in a leg.

The condition has several names.  When the vein is near the surface of the skin, the disorder is called superficial thrombophlebitis.  Affected vessels deep inside a muscle are associated with deep vein thrombosis (DVT).  DVT raises the chances of developing serious medical issues.

Vascular surgeons often treat thrombophlebitis patients, since the condition can be a complication of an untreated varicose vein, Stony Brook Medicine reports.  Superficial vein thrombosis might be extremely painful but fortunately seldom causes serious health problems.

According to MedlinePlus, clots develop when blood flow in veins either slows or otherwise changes.  Major thrombophlebitis symptoms include:

  • Swelling in the affected body part
  • Pain in the relevant portion of the body
  • Redness of the skin
  • A feeling of tenderness and warmth over the affected vessel

Among the many risk factors are these:

  • Having a pacemaker placed by catheter through a groin vein
  • Remaining in bed or sitting in the same position for an extended period
  • Family history of clots
  • Pelvic or leg fractures
  • Varicose veins
  • Being six or fewer months post-partum
  • Being pregnant
  • Undergoing recent surgery
  • Being obese
  • Polycythemia vera
  • Having a long-term catheter in a vessel

How Does a Vascular Surgeon Diagnose and Treat It?

Physicians diagnose this condition after conducting a physical exam and taking a medical history.  An ultrasound exam, venography, and a specific blood test are also useful.

Superficial thrombophlebitis often improves over time on its own.  Conservative measures such as heat application, elevating an affected limb, and taking NSAIDs are helpful to some patients.

The Mayo Clinic indicates that these treatments are customary for both types of thrombophlebitis:

  • Blood-thinning medications such as heparin or fondaparinux, followed by an oral anticoagulant
  • Clot-dissolving drugs
  • Prescription-strength compression stockings
  • Vena cava filter insertion
  • Varicose vein removal by vein stripping

A vein that appears red, tender, or swollen indicates a need to see a doctor.  Swelling in the leg with chest pain or shortness of breath that worsens with breathing signals the need for emergency care.

A number of steps can help prevent this disorder:

  • Walking periodically when seated for long periods, such as on an airplane, bus, or train
  • Moving the legs at regular intervals by flexing the ankles or pressing the feet against a footrest or flooring 10 times or more every hour
  • Wearing loose clothing
  • Avoiding dehydration by drinking a sufficient amount of fluids that are nonalcoholic