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Veins in the popliteal area
Classification and external resources
Specialty Emergency medicine
ICD-10 I80
ICD-9-CM 451
DiseasesDB 13043
eMedicine emerg/581 emerg/582 med/3201
MeSH D010689

Phlebitis or venitis is the inflammation of a vein, usually in the legs. It most commonly occurs in superficial veins. Phlebitis often occurs in conjunction with thrombosis and is then called thrombophlebitis or superficial thrombophlebitis. Unlike deep vein thrombosis, the probability that superficial thrombophlebitis will cause a clot to break up and be transported in pieces to the lung is very low.[1]

Signs and symptoms[edit]

  • Localized redness and swelling
  • Pain or burning along the length of the vein
  • Vein being hard and cord-like[2]


Phlebitis is typically caused by local trauma to a vein, usually from the insertion of an intravenous catheter.[3] However, it can also occur due to a complication of connective tissue disorders such as lupus, or of pancreatic, breast, or ovarian cancers. Phlebitis can also result from certain medications and drugs that irritate the veins, such as desomorphine.[4]

Superficial phlebitis often presents as an early sign in thromboangiitis obliterans (Buerger's disease), a vasculitis that affects small and medium-sized arteries and veins in distal extremities often associated with cigarette smoking.[5]


Treatment usually consists of NSAIDs, such as ibuprofen and local compression (e.g., by compression stockings or a compress).[6] If the phlebitis is associated with local bacterial infection, antibiotics may be used.[7]

For acute infusion superficial thrombophlebitis, not enough evidence exists as of 2015 to determine treatment.[8]



Phlebitis was first described by the Scottish surgeon John Hunter in 1784.

See also[edit]


  1. ^
  2. ^ Benjamin Wedro. "Phlebitis Symptoms". emedicinehealth. Retrieved 13 May 2013. 
  3. ^ Benjamin Wedro. "Phlebitis Causes". emedicinehealth. Retrieved 30 May 2013. 
  4. ^
  5. ^
  6. ^ Benjamin Wedro. "Phlebitis Treatment". emedicinehealth. Retrieved 30 May 2013. 
  7. ^ Benjamin Wedro. "Phlebitis Medical Treatment". emedicinehealth. Retrieved 30 May 2013. 
  8. ^ Di Nisio, M; Peinemann, F; Porreca, E; Rutjes, AW (20 November 2015). "Treatment for superficial infusion thrombophlebitis of the upper extremity.". The Cochrane database of systematic reviews. 11: CD011015. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD011015.pub2. PMID 26588711. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Intravenous Infusion Therapy for Nurses (Second Edition) by Dianne L. Josephson (ISBN 1-4018-0935-9)
  • John Hunter, "Observations on the Inflammation of the Internal Coats of Veins," Transactions of a Society for the Improvement of Medical and Chirurgical Knowledge, vol. 1 (London: 1793) pp. 18–29

External links[edit]