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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 1
  • Cause 2
  • Management 3
  • History 4
  • Society and culture 5
  • See also 6
  • References 7
  • Additional references 8
  • External links 9

Signs and symptoms

  • 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, phlebitis 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]


Phlebitis was first described by John Hunter in 1784.

Society and culture

  • The condition was detailed in The Dharma Bums and other writings by Beat author Jack Kerouac, who suffered from the disease possibly brought on by years of alcohol abuse.
  • In Henry Morton Robinson's best selling 1949 novel The Cardinal (later made into a motion picture by Otto Preminger), a severe case of phlebitis is a prominent plot device as sustained by the protagonist Stephen Fermoyle.
  • In the "Marcus Welby MD" Season 7, Episode 9, - A patient of Dr. Welby has to be admitted in the hospital for phlebitis. The episode is entitled: "The Strange Behavior of Paul Kelland"
  • In the Seinfeld episode "The Shower Head", Jerry's mother tells Jerry that his father's "Phlebitis is acting up."
  • In The Simpsons episode "Bart Gets an F", the school nurse believes Bart has phlebitis.
  • In All in the Family episode "Too Good Edith", Edith has phlebitis.
  • Peter Boyle's character on Everybody Loves Raymond suffers from phlebitis. Or at least it is used as an excuse for getting out of undesirable family functions.
  • In King Of The Hill, when Mr. Strickland took Bible study classes in the pool with Luanne, Hank noted that it was "good for his phlebitis".
  • In the M*A*S*H episode "The Young and the Restless", Colonel Potter suffers through a bout of phlebitis, aggravated by his initial refusal to acknowledge his condition.
  • In Futurama, Richard Nixon's head reminisces about his "good Republican body" that was "riddled with phlebitis."
  • In Knute Rockne, All American, Rockne suffers from phlebitis. His doctor orders bed rest and blames the condition on continuing rough hits at football practice: "You're not a young man, anymore, Knute. You're 42."
  • In the 2009 film Frost/Nixon, Richard Nixon is taken into the hospital having suffered an attack of phlebitis.
  • In the 2014 film The Drop, Marv's sister Dottie mentions that she suffers from phlebitis.

See also


  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. 

Additional references

  • 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

  • Phlebitis at
  • eMedicine Health: Phlebitis provides an overview of phlebitis and its causes, symptoms, and treatment.
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