New insights into the pathophysiologic condition of venous ulceration with color-flow duplex imaging: implications for treatment?

N Labropoulos, A D Giannoukas, A N Nicolaides, G Ramaswami, M Leon, P Burke
Journal of Vascular Surgery 1995, 22 (1): 45-50

PURPOSE: This study was conducted to investigate the distribution of reflux in the veins adjacent to or within the venous ulcer (local) and to correlate it with the pattern of disease of the axial veins (all veins away from the ulcer area) of the affected limb.

METHODS: Forty-three ulcers in 34 legs of 33 patients were examined with color-flow duplex imaging. The veins in the area of the ulcer were scanned with a sterile technique.

RESULTS: In 17 legs (50%) there was documented past deep venous thrombosis. All of the 34 limbs had reflux in the superficial or deep axial veins either alone or in combination. Fifteen of these limbs (44%) also had perforating vein incompetence, but none had perforator incompetence alone. Six ulcers showed no evidence of reflux in the local veins when scanned through the ulcer bed despite the presence of reflux in the axial veins of the limb. In 13 limbs with 17 ulcers, either the superficial axial veins alone or the deep axial veins alone were affected (with or without associated perforator incompetence). Examination of the local veins associated with these 17 ulcers revealed a similar pattern of reflux to that seen in the axial veins in 13 cases, with the remaining 4 ulcers showing no local venous abnormality. The pattern of reflux was less predictable at the local ulcer level in limbs where both superficial and deep venous incompetence coexisted in the axial veins. Only 7 of the 26 ulcers (27%) in these limbs had similar evidence of combined superficial and deep reflux in the local ulcer veins, whereas 10 ulcers (39%) were associated with local reflux in the superficial or deep veins alone.

CONCLUSIONS: These data show that 86% (37/43) of the ulcers has some degree of reflux in the local area, the pattern of which may differ from the axial vein disease. Treatment of the local hemodynamic abnormalities may be an important factor in the healing of the ulcers and in the prevention of their recurrence.

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