Thrombophlebitis is inflammation caused when a blood clot slows down the speed at which blood flows, or circulates, in a vein. It usually happens in the legs, but it can happen anywhere in your body. And, it can happen just under the skin or in a deep vein.
One of the first signs of this condition is that the skin over the affected vein turns red. It may also may feel thick, hard, or tender. And, the affected area might swell, feel hot, and become painful. Sometimes your doctor can tell if you have thrombophlebitis just by these symptoms.
Other times, he’ll have to run some tests to be sure. But which ones he runs will depend on what type of clot the doctor suspects you have and where it’s located. Here’s a look at some of the most common tests for thrombophlebitis.
Ultrasound . This is normally the first test your doctor will do to see if you have a blood clot. It uses sound waves to create an image of your veins.
A Doppler ultrasound allows a doctor to see how blood flows through your veins.
These live images show your doctor what’s happening in your vein at that moment. If there’s a blockage in your blood flow, it’ll show up on a Doppler ultrasound.
Both ultrasounds are non-invasive tests that don’t have any big side effects. You’ll be able to go back to your normal activities right away. If the test is performed over an area that’s tender, you may feel some minor pain as the ultrasound tech presses the transducer against your skin.
A radiologist will review the images and send a report to your primary care doctor, or to the doctor who requested the ultrasound.
D-dimer test. This looks for a protein, called D-dimer, that’s made when a blood clot breaks down. Your doctor will order this test if he thinks you’ve got a dangerous clot, like a deep vein thrombosis (DVT) or pulmonary embolism (PE).
Here’s how it works: Your doctor draws blood from your vein with a needle.
If your D-dimer level is high, it could mean a clot is in the process of breaking down. If your results are negative, it means you probably don’t have a clot. But even if the results are positive, that still doesn’t mean you have a clot. Your doctor will probably order more tests to be sure.
Venography. If the results of your ultrasound aren’t clear, your doctor will use this test to get a picture of how blood flows through your veins. He’ll inject dye into your vein. The image will show up on an X-ray. Possible side effects include pain and an allergic reaction to the dye.
MR angiography (MRA). This test takes a detailed picture of your veins using a large MRI machine. Your doctor will inject a special dye into your veins. It’ll allow him to see your blood vessels. He’ll also be able to see anything that looks abnormal, like plaque build-up in your arteries.