Superficial vein thrombophlebitis

Last reviewed: 2 Jan 2023
Last updated: 23 Mar 2021



History and exam

Key diagnostic factors

  • presence of risk factors
  • previous superficial vein thrombophlebitis (SVT), deep vein thrombosis (DVT), or pulmonary embolism (PE)
  • redness/erythema of overlying skin
  • hot/warm overlying skin
  • painful/tender over affected vein
  • swelling/oedema of surrounding area
  • cord-like mass palpable
  • development of symptoms over hours to days
  • signs/symptoms of concomitant DVT or PE
More key diagnostic factors

Other diagnostic factors

  • varicose veins
  • history of thrombophilic disorders
  • recent vein instrumentation (e.g., sclerotherapy)
  • recent vein cannulation and intravenous drug administration
  • low-grade fever
  • pigmentation changes
Other diagnostic factors

Risk factors

  • varicose veins
  • thrombophilic disorders
  • autoimmune diseases (e.g., Behcet's and Buerger's disease)
  • prior history of SVT
  • female sex
  • sclerotherapy
  • intravenous catheterisation
  • malignancy
  • pregnancy
  • use of oral contraceptives and hormonal replacement therapy
  • older age
  • history of prior VTE, including DVT and PE
  • obesity
  • prolonged immobilisation (e.g., long-haul air travel)
More risk factors

Diagnostic investigations

1st investigations to order

  • Doppler ultrasonography
More 1st investigations to order

Investigations to consider

  • biopsy
  • pulmonary CT angiography
  • ventilation perfusion (VQ) scan
  • conventional pulmonary angiography
  • assessment for malignancy
  • thrombophilia screening
More investigations to consider

Treatment algorithm


extension into the femoral vein or popliteal vein, <2 cm from the saphenofemoral junction, or concomitant DVT or PE


SVT: ≥5 cm in length and/or within 3-5 cm of the saphenofemoral junction

SVT: <5 cm in length on localised venous ectasia (varicophlebitis), not within 3-5 cm of the saphenofemoral junction, no risk factors for VTE

SVT: <5 cm in length on localised venous ectasia (varicophlebitis), not within 3-5 cm of the saphenofemoral junction, at least one risk factor for VTE


recurrent superficial vein thrombophlebitis (SVT) with extensive varicose veins



Vicky Tagalakis, MD, FRCPC, MSc
Vicky Tagalakis

Associate Professor

Department of Medicine

McGill University




VT has received reimbursement for advisory board work for Servier and Pzifer. Both of these companies are makers of anticoagulants. VT has received an investigator-initiated grant from Sanofi, manufacturer of Enoxaparin.


Professor Vicky Tagalakis would like to gratefully acknowledge Frédérique St-Pierre, a medical student who worked with her to update this topic. FSP declares that he has no competing interests.

Peer reviewers

Francois Becker, MD, PhD


Division of Angiology and Hemostasis

University Hospital of Geneva




FB declares that he has no competing interests.

Michael Bromberg, MD, PhD

Professor of Medicine

Section of Hematology

Director of Hematologic Malignancies

Temple University School of Medicine




MB declares that he has no competing interests.

Louis Aledort, MD

The Mary Weinfeld Professor of Clinical Research in Hemophilia

Mount Sinai School of Medicine

New York



LA declares that he has no competing interests.

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