ComplicationsBy Mayo Clinic staff
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If thrombophlebitis is in a vein just under your skin (superficial vein), complications are rare. However, if the clot occurs in a deep vein you may develop a serious medical condition known as deep vein thrombosis. If that happens, the risk of serious complications is greater. Complications may include:
- Pulmonary embolism. If part of a deep vein clot becomes dislodged, it may travel to your lungs, where it can block an artery (embolism) and cause a potentially life-threatening situation.
- Heart attack or stroke. If you have certain types of congenital heart defects that have caused a hole in your heart — such as a patent foramen ovale (PFO), an atrial septal defect or a ventricular septal defect — a clot traveling through your bloodstream can enter your coronary arteries or brain and cause a heart attack or stroke.
Deep vein thrombosis also may damage valves in the veins in your legs. Veins have valves to prevent blood from flowing back as it is gradually pushed uphill toward your heart. When the valves in the veins of your legs don't work properly, several problems can occur:
- Varicose veins. The pooling of blood in your veins can cause them to balloon, resulting in varicose veins.
- Swelling. In some cases, the pooling may become so bad that your leg swells (edema).
- Skin discoloration. With chronic swelling and increased pressure on your skin, discoloration called stasis pigmentation may occur. In some cases, skin ulcers may develop. If you suspect a skin ulcer is forming, call your doctor.
- Blocked vein. Deep vein thrombosis can cause a permanent blocking of blood flow in the vein.
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