Thrombophlebitis technically refers to the inflammation of one or more veins secondary to blood clots called thrombi. This medical condition is commonly seen in the lower extremities where it may either be superficial or deep. The medical term “thrombus” refers to a clot while “phlebitis” means inflammation of the veins.
Patients with thrombophlebitis typically present with the following symptoms:
The diagnosis of thrombophlebitis is usually made clinically by the attending physician. Further tests may be required to determine whether the thrombophlebitis is superficial or deep. These include:
The patients suffering from superficial thrombophlebitis may only need warm compress to relieve the discomfort and inflammation. The use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can afford some pain control. Blood thinning medications like injectable low molecular weight heparin can effectively relieve both superficial and deep vein thrombosis .
Oral warfarin can prevent the formation of new clots and prevent small clots from growing. Thrombolytics like alteplase may be indicated for deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism. Preventive compression stockings reduce the risk of thromboembolic recurrence in high-risk individuals. Surgical stripping of varicose veins can be performed for patients with recurrent thrombophlebitis of the lower extremities .
Both superficial thrombophlebitis and deep venous thrombosis respond well to early therapeutic interventions. Deep venous thrombosis below the knee level are more prone to pulmonary embolic events which increases mortality among patients. Patients who are incapacitated with long periods of immobility carry a higher morbidity rate.
In general, thrombophlebitis is caused by a blood clot that initiates an inflammatory reaction. There are a number of events that lead to the formation of blood clots in the body. These include:
Nations in the western hemisphere have an annual incidence of 1 case of thrombophlebitis per 1000 population . The relative incidence of symptomatic thrombophlebitis only reaches 5 cases for every 10,000 individuals . The precise prevalence is difficult to establish because it is grossly under reported. An Italian based study reveals that pain and edema are the two dominant symptoms of deep venous thrombosis (DVT) occurring in almost three-fourths of the cases .
Superficial thrombophlebitis is more prone to recurrence as compared to deep venous thrombosis. The mortality and morbidity of thrombophlebitis correlates with pulmonary embolic events. Almost a third of the patients with superficial thrombophlebitis in the lower extremities have a concurrent deep venous thrombosis . There is no racial predilection to thrombophlebitis; however, women are more prone to this condition with a higher risk for those in estrogenic therapy. The mean age of onset for both superficial and deep venous thrombosis is at 66 years according to European studies .
Almost two-thirds of the patients who develop thrombophlebitis have a pertinent medical history of hypercoagulable states like the inherited disease thrombophilia, which are are genetically transmitted and include specific hypercoagulable diseases like antithrombin deficiency, heparin cofactor II deficiency, thrombomodulin defiency, and tissue factor pathway inhibitor deficiency . An inherent deficiency in any of the anticoagulant factors can also lead to thrombophlebitis . Deficiency in protein S, anti-thrombin III and protein C renders the vascular endothelium incapacitated to self-repair during trivial vascular injuries.
During pregnancy, procoagulant factors like plasma fibrinogen increases in concentration to more than twice its normal concentration. Fibrinolysis is also greatly impaired during this gestational period.
Mucin producing visceral carcinoma can trigger a hypercoagulable state in affected patients.
High risk patients on long rides or flights should regularly move their lower extremities to prevent hemostasis and blood clot formation. Avoidance of tight clothing lowers the risk of thrombophlebitis. Regular and adequate hydration is needed to prevent hypercoagulable states. Patients prescribed with blood thinning medications must comply with it religiously to prevent thrombosis and embolic events from happening.
Thrombophlebitis occurs when blood clots start to obstruct one or more veins of the lower extremities; although thrombophlebitis can sometimes affect the superficial veins of the neck and arms.
Thrombophlebitis is often associated with long periods of inactivity, trauma and surgery. Patients with pronounced varicose veins can develop superficial thrombophlebitis. Clotting and inflammation of the deep veins is more prone to embolus formation, which can adversely be lodged to the lungs and cause life-threatening pulmonary embolism. Both superficial and deep thrombophlebitis are effectively treated with blood thinning medications.
Thrombophlebitis refers to the development of clots in one or more veins in the body with subsequent inflammation. This leads to pain, reddening and swelling of the affected region. Long periods of inactivity, injuries to the veins and inherited disorders of blood clotting are important risk factors for this condition. A number of medicines and surgical procedures can effectively treat this disease. Early treatment prevents the dangerous complication of dislodgement of the clot into the lungs.