What is Basilic Vein Thrombosis?

The basilic vein brings blood back to the heart from the arm. Specifically, it drains blood from parts of the hand and forearm.

Leaving the arm, it meets with the subclavian vein. It’s part of the systemic circulation and originates from the hand. In the lower arm, the vein is more visible.

However, in the upper arm, it becomes less visible. In this article, we’re going to talk about what happens whenever a superficial vein like this one gets a clot.

Function of the Basilic Vein

basilic veinAs mentioned, the basilic vein helps drain blood from the hands and arm. Veins carry deoxygenated blood back to the heart.

Here, the blood gets supplied with fresh oxygen before getting sent out to the body. On the flipside, arteries carry oxygenated blood to organs and tissues.

Since arteries require more protection than veins, they are located deeper in the body. Veins tend to be located closer to the surface of the body, although some can run quite deep as well.

Below, we’ll talk about a common disease that affects people all around the world: basilic vein thrombosis.

Bottom Line: Veins carry deoxygenated blood back to the heart, while arteries carry oxygenated blood away from the heart.

What is Basilic Vein Thrombosis?

superficial vein thrombosis

Basilic vein thrombosis, also called “Superficial Vein Thrombosis” (SVT), happens whenever a superficial vein gets a clot.

The affected area can become red and painful. Since the vein is clotted, it will feel hard (normally, veins feel soft). There are two types of SVT:

  • Primary
  • Secondary

A doctor will be able to recognize a superficial vein thrombosis based on its appearance. Diagnostic tests usually aren’t needed.

However, the doctor might do an ultrasonography just in case. Note, this is much different than “Deep Vein Thrombosis” (DVT).

With DVT, there’s generally much less inflammation. The good news is that a basilic vein thrombosis isn’t likely to break loose and travel (embolize) to a different part of the body.

Bottom Line: Superficial vein thrombosis happens whenever a superficial vein gets a clot. This results in an acute inflammatory response.


Most often, a clot in a superficial vein will go away on its own. There are things you can do to help speed up the process. They include:

How long will it take for the pain and inflammation to subside?

While the initial inflammation may subside within a few days, it usually takes several days for the tenderness to go away completely.

A doctor may inject a local anesthetic and remove the thrombus to provide relief faster. Once removed, you will need to wear a compression bandage for a few days after.

Finally, you may need to take an anticoagulant like heparin to limit clotting. Remember- if a clot travels to the lungs, it can result in instant death.

Bottom Line: Most cases of basilic vein thrombosis will go away on their own. You can deal with the pain using warm compression and medication.

What is an Ultrasonography?


An ultrasonography relies on ultrasonic waves to produce images of internal organs.

Something called a transducer is responsible for converting electrical current into sound waves.

These sound waves are sent into the body, bounce off internal structures, and return to the transducer. The electrical signals are converted into an image that can be viewed as a video or digital computer image.

Although a basilic vein thrombosis likely won’t lead to anything serious, doctors might still do an ultrasonography. They do this to check for DVT, which doesn’t present as many symptoms.

Bottom Line: An ultrasonography is generally done as a precaution to ensure that someone with an SVT doesn’t also have a DVT.


To summarize, a superficial vein thrombosis happens whenever a vein that’s close to the surface of the body gets a clot.

This creates an acute inflammatory response that can result in pain, redness, and swelling. Fortunately, most cases of SVT won’t result in the clot embolizing.

Patients with an SVT above the knee could also have deep vein thrombosis, which is more serious. Therefore, doctors give an ultrasonography as a precautionary measure.

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