Phlebitis (Gt. a vein), inflammation of the veins. It was first noticed by John Hunter in 1784; numerous isolated cases were soon after published, and in the early part of this century the disease was fully illustrated by French pathologists. Phlebitis is of two kinds, adhesive and suppurative. Adhesive phlebitis is a local disease, marked by a dull pain in the part, by swelling, hardness, and tenderness of the affected vein, and, when this is a main venous trunk, by oedema of the parts whose blood is returned by it; phlegmasia dolens is thus properly a phlebitis. Fibrinous clots are formed adhering to the walls of the vein; but after a time the adhesions become loosened, the clots are absorbed, and the circulation through the vein is restored. The disease, except where the blocking up of a main trunk may cause embarrassment to the circulation, is not serious; rest and the application of a few leeches along the course of the vein will cure it. - In suppurative phlebitis the local symptoms are often little marked, while the general symptoms are of the gravest character. It ordinarily commences by a marked chill, repeated at irregular intervals, in some cases several times a day, throughout the disease.
The chills are followed by heat of skin and great frequency of pulse, terminating generally in a profuse sweat. The appetite is totally lost, the tongue is red and dry, sometimes sordes of the teeth and mouth are present, and sometimes there is copious and offensive diarrhoea. Abscesses may make their appearance, or one or more of the joints may become distended with pus. After death pus is often found in the veins, with multiple abscesses in the parenchyma of the lungs or liver. The disease is almost necessarily fatal. The system of the patient should be supported by appropriate food, quinine, and stimulants.