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Superficial thrombophlebitis
See also in: Cellulitis DDx
Other Resources UpToDate PubMed

Superficial thrombophlebitis

See also in: Cellulitis DDx
Contributors: Tara Mahar MD, Art Papier MD
Other Resources UpToDate PubMed


Superficial thrombophlebitis refers to inflammation (phlebitis) and thrombosis in subcutaneous veins. It is most commonly caused by intravenous cannulation of veins but may also be due to hypercoagulable states, stasis within varices, visceral cancer, and infection (usually due to Staphylococcus aureus, then termed septic thrombophlebitis). Ten to twenty percent of cases are associated with occult deep venous thrombosis (DVT). Superficial thrombophlebitis presents as erythema and induration of a superficial vein. There may be a low-grade fever. Complications include extension to the deep venous system and sepsis or endocarditis in cases of septic thrombophlebitis.

Trousseau syndrome is recurrent migratory thrombophlebitis associated with visceral cancer (usually pancreatic).

Superficial thrombophlebitis can often be distinguished from cellulitis on the basis of history (recent intravenous catheter site) and physical exam (palpable induration or cord in the area of a vein).

Superficial thrombophlebitis on the chest with enlarged veins is sometimes called Mondor disease.


I80.9 – Phlebitis and thrombophlebitis of unspecified site

2477008 – Superficial thrombophlebitis

Look For

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Diagnostic Pearls

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Differential Diagnosis & Pitfalls

  • Cellulitis / Erysipelas
  • Arthropod bite or sting
  • Sporotrichosis
  • Mycobacterium marinum infection
  • Lymphangitis
  • Deep vein thrombosis / thrombophlebitis
  • Herpesvirus infections (Herpes simplex virus, Herpetic whitlow, Herpes zoster) may demonstrate lymphangitic streaking
  • Angioedema
  • Urticaria
  • Contact dermatitis (Allergic contact dermatitis, Irritant contact dermatitis)
  • Eosinophilic cellulitis
  • Fixed drug eruption
  • Necrotizing fasciitis
  • Postphlebitic (thrombotic) syndrome
  • Soft tissue injury
  • Septic thrombophlebitis
  • Erythema nodosum
  • Lymphedema
  • Lyme disease
  • Tinea corporis
  • Lipodermatosclerosis
  • Varicosities

Best Tests

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Management Pearls

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Drug Reaction Data

Below is a list of drugs with literature evidence indicating an adverse association with this diagnosis. The list is continually updated through ongoing research and new medication approvals. Click on Citations to sort by number of citations or click on Medication to sort the medications alphabetically.

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Last Updated:08/21/2017
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Superficial thrombophlebitis
See also in: Cellulitis DDx
A medical illustration showing key findings of Superficial thrombophlebitis : Fever, Antecubital fossa, Arm, Asymmetric trunk or extremity distribution, Erythema, Leg, Lower extremity edema, Unilateral distribution, Upper extremity edema, Painful skin lesion, Intravenous catheter site
Clinical image of Superficial thrombophlebitis - imageId=2974016. Click to open in gallery.  caption: 'Linear erythematous patches on the leg.'
Linear erythematous patches on the leg.
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