What Is a Phlebolith?

A phlebolith is a small, often rounded calcium deposit within a vein that is typically located in the pelvic area and resembles a kidney stone in appearance. They are normally harmless and their presence often goes unnoticed.

Phleboliths are typically revealed by testing when the patient is treated for an unrelated matter, or when pain in the region causes further investigation that detects their existence. They may easily be mistaken for kidney stones but can often be distinguished by the appearance of a comet-shaped tail of soft tissue. Kidney stones often have a rim of soft-tissue. Another distinguishing feature may be a radiolucent center found in phleboliths caused by the calcium content, although this may go unnoticed in an unenhanced CT scan, as reported by the National Center for Biotechnology Information.

Symptoms associated with phleboliths include pain in the pelvic, abdominal or lower back regions, thrombosis, or slowing of the blood flow, varicose appearance of veins in the pelvic region and kidney or bladder discomfort. They may be caused by urinary blockage creating pressure in the veins, strained bowel movements, liver disease, benign tumors or, in the rare cases, cancer.

Although phleboliths are usually harmless, they may indicate or lead to a serious condition. Treatment may include applying a warm washcloth to the area, elevating the region, and using anti-inflammatory medications. More serious cases may require sclerotherapy, the injection of radioactive dye that shrinks the vein, laser therapy or surgical removal.