Correlation of duplex ultrasound scanning-derived valve closure time and clinical classification in patients with small saphenous vein reflux: Is lesser saphenous vein truly lesser?

Judith C Lin, Mark D Iafrati, Thomas F O'Donnell, James M Estes, William C Mackey
Journal of Vascular Surgery 2004, 39 (5): 1053-8

OBJECTIVE: We recently identified small saphenous vein (SSV) reflux as a significant risk factor for ulcer recurrence in patients with severe chronic venous insufficiency (CVI) undergoing perforator vein ligation. In this study we examined the role of SSV reflux in patients across the spectrum of CVI.

METHODS: From March 15, 1997, to December 24, 2002, clinical and duplex ultrasound (US) scanning data from all valve closure time studies performed in our vascular laboratory were prospectively recorded. Valve closure time in the deep and superficial leg veins was assessed with the rapid cuff deflation technique; reflux time greater than 0.5 seconds was considered abnormal. SSV reflux was correlated with the CEAP classification system and eventual surgical procedure. Data were analyzed with Pearson chi(2) analysis.

RESULTS: We analyzed 722 limbs in 422 patients, 265 (63%) female patients and 157 (37%) male patients, with a mean age of 48 +/- 12.8 years (range, 16-85 years). In the entire cohort the cause was congenital (Ec) in 5 patients, primary (Ep) in 606 patients, and secondary (Es) in 112 patients. SSV reflux was present in 206 limbs (28.5%) evaluated. Among limbs with SSV reflux, Ec = 4 (2%), Ep = 162 (79%), and Es = 40 (19%). SSV reflux did not correlate with gender, side, or age. The prevalence of SSV reflux increases with increasing severity of clinical class: C1-C3, 25.8% versus C4-C6, 36.1% (P =.006). SSV reflux is highly associated with deep venous reflux, 35.2% of femoral vein reflux (P =.015), 35.8% of femoral vein plus popliteal vein reflux (P =.001), and 40.5% of isolated popliteal vein reflux (P <.001). Great saphenous vein (GSV) reflux was identified in 483 (67%) limbs studied with valve closure time, whereas SSV reflux was present in 206 (28%) limbs. In this cohort, 127 GSV or SSV surgical procedures were performed subsequent to valve closure time examination. Among these operations 107 (84%) were GSV procedures, and only 20 (16%) were SSV procedures.

CONCLUSION: SSV reflux is most common in patients demonstrating severe sequelae of CVI, such as lipodermatosclerosis or ulceration. The increasing prevalence of SSV reflux in more severe clinical classes and the strong association of SSV reflux and deep venous reflux suggest that SSV may have a significant role in CVI. Our data further show that, in our institution, a GSV with reflux is more than twice as likely to be surgically corrected as an SSV with reflux. It is time for the SSV to assume greater importance in the treatment of lower extremity venous disease. Future improvements in surgical techniques for access and visualization of the SSV may facilitate this method.

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