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Treatment of superficial thrombophlebitis controversial:

Treatment options include:

  • gentle support by means of a bandage or stocking and elevation of the affected leg
  • anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen 400mg tds
  • topical measures include treatment with preparations such Hirudoid
  • use of low molecular weight heparin
Therapeutic strategies must include symptomatic relief, limitation of thrombosis extension, and, very importantly, reduction of the risk of pulmonary embolism (1):
  • in cases of limited (below knee) superficial thrombophlebitis without evidence of deep vein thrombosis, compression and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs alone will suffice by providing symptomatic relief

  • if thrombus extends to the saphenofemoral or saphenopopliteal junctions prophylactic use of low molecular weight heparin may be indicated. Surgical intervention is a controversial option if anticoagulation is contraindicated or not tolerated, but it may compound the risk of venous thromboembolism.

Notes (2,3):

Patients with superficial thrombophlebitis may have an underlying DVT. For this reason one should consider a duplex ultrasound scan in patients with superficial thrombophlebitis which follows the course of the long saphenous vein in the leg.

  • prevalence of associated acute DVT in patients presenting with SVT is estimated to 6.8%-40%
    • reason for the range of associated acute DVT is because of the wide variation in study design, patient characteristics, symptomatic status, type of SVT, inpatient versus outpatient setting, indications, and whether or not any noninvasive testing was performed.
    • a study based on outpatients diagnosed with SVT (3)
      • the incidence of acute DVT was 13%
      • however, the incidence varied from 6.3% in patients with varicose veins, 33% in patients without varicose veins, and 40% in patients with a previous history of DVT
  • risk of pulmonary embolism
    • the occurrence of concomitant pulmonary embolism is also variable, from 0.5% to 4% in symptomatic patients, increasing to 33% when a lung scan is performed (3)


Last reviewed 07/2019