Phlebitis: Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment, and Preventions
Phlebitis means inflammation of a vein occurring most frequently in the lower extremities. One very serious form is known as milkeg, a condition sometimes following childbirth, particularly if there has been some injury to the pelvic veins.
Trouble usually begins with the formation of a clot in one of the veins of the calk or foot. The clot itself may completely block off the vein, preventing any flow of blood from that area. Part of the clot itself may then break off and lodge in the lungs as a pulmonary embolus, a very serious complication that should be prevented if at all possible. In the leg itself there is usually considerable inflammation, especially around the vein involve. The inflamed area feels and may be red, swollen, and tender.
Good nursing care is most important. The heating cradle is of value in treating this condition. The patient should remain in bed for at least one week. Hot water bottles or warm moist pack will usually relieve the pain in the leg to some extent, especially if there is a large area involved. Anticoagulants or blood-thinning medicines are value in treating this condition and in preventing further complications due an embolus. After about a week the patient can usually be allowed up, provided his temperature is normal and his condition satisfactory. He should continue on anticoagulants for at least another month. An elastic bandage will give support to the inflamed area, especially during the time the patient is out of bed. He should wear the elastic bandage as long as there is any tendency to swelling.
If the phlebitis appears to be creeping up toward the heart, surgery may be indicated. The vein should be legated or divided above the area of infection, preferably up near the groin, for it is difficult to know just how far the clot has already extended. Such surgery may save the patient’s life.
All bedridden patients should carry out frequent movements of the legs as often as possible. This will help to keep the blood in circulation. For the same reason patients with congestive heart failure should be instructed to move their legs often while lying in bed. When they can be up and about they should take gentle exercise, such as walking, to maintain a good circulation in the lower limbs.