The diagnosis and management of 689 chronic leg ulcers in a single-visit assessment clinic

D J Adam, J Naik, T Hartshorne, M Bello, N J M London
European Journal of Vascular and Endovascular Surgery 2003, 25 (5): 462-8

OBJECTIVES: accurate diagnosis is essential if patients with chronic leg ulceration are to receive optimal treatment. This prospective study describes the findings of a standardised assessment protocol and the initial management of a consecutive series of patients with chronic leg ulceration presenting to a single-visit leg ulcer assessment clinic.

METHODS: between January 1993 and January 1999, a total of 555 patients (220 men and 335 women of median age 73, range 28-95 years) with 689 chronic leg ulcers were assessed. Full clinical assessment, ankle:brachial pressure index and lower limb venous duplex scan were performed according to a standardised protocol and diagnostic and management data were recorded prospectively on a computerised database.

RESULTS: venous disease alone was responsible for 496 of 689 (72%) ulcers. Isolated superficial venous reflux (SVR) was identified in 52% of limbs and two-thirds of these had superficial venous surgery. Combined SVR and segmental deep venous reflux (DVR) was present in 13%, and full-length DVR was present in 33% of limbs. Nineteen (4%) limbs had deep venous stenosis or obstruction. Overall, superficial venous surgery was performed in 43% and compression bandages or hosiery alone were applied in 52% of limbs. Mixed arterio-venous ulceration was present in 100 (14.5%) limbs of which 56 had arterial revascularisation, 38 had superficial venous surgery and 23 had compression alone. Fifteen limbs with pure arterial ulceration had angioplasty (n=13) or simple dressings alone (n=2). Ulceration due to lymphoedema (n=17), mixed lymphoedema and venous reflux (n=11) and other causes (n=50) were managed by compression, dressings or skin grafting.

CONCLUSIONS: a standardised protocol of clinical and duplex assessment can lead to a diagnosis in 97% of chronic leg ulcers. Duplex is essential to confirm or exclude potentially correctable venous disease and allow tailored surgical intervention for those patients who many benefit.


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