The basilic vein is a large vein in the upper arm known as a superficial vein. Superficial is a term used to classify veins which are close to the surface of the skin. This vein is close enough to the skin that for most of its length, it is actually visible. It begins on the top of the hand and then reaches around to the underarm until it joins the cephalic vein, another superficial vein located in the arm.
This vein circulates blood to and from parts of the hand and forearm. Mostly the basilic vein allows blood drainage from these parts of the body, allowing the used blood to return to the heart to be oxygenated. The basilic vein travels up and meets the cephalic vein near the elbow, which eventually drains and carries large portions of blood from the limbs to the heart.
A common ailment of the basilic vein is basilic vein thrombrosis (BVT). This condition occurs when a fairly large blood clot forms in the vein. This may cause swelling in the arm or face, pain in the neck or shoulder, and fever. This condition may be serious, and it is normally recommended that it be treated promptly. If the clot formed in this vein travels to the lungs or heart, it may cause death. This situation may happen due to many factors or ailments, including high blood pressure or medication side effects.
Treatment options for BVT usually include anticoagulation drugs, thrombolytics, and even surgery. Anticoagulation drugs, also known as blood thinners, help prevent the clot from gaining size, while thrombolytics actually dissolve the clot. Surgery is usually an option only in extreme cases, and many times the most common procedure involves implanting a filter to prevent the clot from traveling into the heart or lungs. Home treatment involving bed rest and a compressed arm sleeve may be options in very mild cases of BVT.
A medical professional can usually detect basilic vein thrombosis in several different ways. One common way is through sonographic images of the vein. When the basilic vein is clear and operating properly, the hands and forearm are adequately drained. If the vein is blocked, the use of these body parts may be impaired, or other symptoms may be present. It is usually important for individuals to see a doctor quickly if symptoms are present, as delay may cause much more serious conditions.