Diagnosis of phlebitis (superficial thrombophlebitis)
Phlebitis (or superficial venous thrombophlebitis) can usually be diagnosed by any doctor or nurse with an understanding of the information found within the other pages of this site. Indeed many people with no medical knowledge or training are able to diagnose it having read through and understood the information that has been given here.
If phlebitis (superficial venous thrombophlebitis) of the leg is diagnosed or suspected, the research has now shown that a referral should be made to a specialist vein unit immediately, so that a venous duplex ultrasound scan can be performed.
At the specialist vein unit, the patient will have a specialised duplex ultrasound scan of veins which will check:
- that the condition is indeed phlebitis (or superficial venous thrombophlebitis) and not one of the other conditions that are commonly misdiagnosed as phlebitis (or superficial venous thrombophlebitis)
- that there is no underlying deep vein thrombosis (DVT)
- the extent of the clot in the superficial veins causing the phlebitis (the extent of the superficial venous thrombophlebitis)
- to check whether the underlying cause is indeed varicose veins even if they are not visible on the surface
Following on from the recent research and guidelines, the duplex ultrasound scan has become essential.
It not only confirms the diagnosis, it also checks whether a deep vein thrombosis (DVT) has already formed, and if not it gives an idea of whether there is a risk of a deep vein thrombosis (DVT) or of the formation of a pulmonary embolism (PE).
Therefore the duplex ultrasound scan is not only diagnostic, it also guides the whole of the treatment.
In addition, the duplex ultrasound scan can identify the commonest underlying cause of phlebitis (superficial venous thrombophlebitis) of the leg. As this is usually venous incompetence (“hidden varicose veins“) or varicose veins, a venous duplex ultrasound scan will indicate this and allow the medics to plan for treatment of the varicose veins once the initial phlebitis has been treated and the inflammation has settled down. It is essential to treat any underlying varicose veins to prevent it from happening again in the future.