Duplex ultrasonography scanning for chronic venous disease: patterns of venous reflux

K A Myers, R W Ziegenbein, G H Zeng, P G Matthews
Journal of Vascular Surgery 1995, 21 (4): 605-12

PURPOSE: Patterns of flow in superficial and deep veins and outward flow in medial calf perforators were studied by duplex ultrasonography scanning in 1653 lower limbs in 1114 consecutive patients. This study compares results in 776 limbs with primary uncomplicated varicose veins with those in 166 limbs with the complications of lipodermatosclerosis or past venous ulceration.

METHODS: Duplex scanning determined whether superficial and deep veins were occluded or showed reflux and whether outward flow occurred in medial calf perforators with calf muscle contraction.

RESULTS: Two proximal deep veins were occluded. When limbs with primary uncomplicated varicose veins, lipodermatosclerosis, or past ulceration were compared, superficial reflux alone was seen in 55%, 39%, and 38%, deep reflux alone was seen in 2%, 7%, and 8%, and combined superficial and deep reflux was seen in 18%, 34%, and 48%, respectively. Superficial reflux affected the long saphenous system alone in 58%, 57%, and 40%, the short saphenous system alone in 18%, 18%, and 26%, and both the long and short saphenous systems in 24%, 25%, and 34%, respectively. Limbs with ulceration more frequently showed superficial reflux (p < 0.05), and all limbs with complications more frequently showed short saphenous reflux (p < 0.05) and deep reflux (p < 0.01) specifically in the posterior tibial veins (p < 0.01). Outward flow was seen in medial calf perforators in 57%, 67%, and 66%, respectively; it occurred more frequently in all limbs with complications (p < 0.05). Isolated outward flow in perforators without superficial or deep reflux was seen in 10%, 10%, and 2%, respectively.

CONCLUSIONS: Most limbs with complications had superficial reflux either alone or combined with deep reflux, and few had deep reflux alone. Reflux was more frequent in posterior tibial veins for limbs with complications compared with those with uncomplicated primary varicose veins. Outward flow in perforators was common in limbs with complications and with uncomplicated primary varicose veins, but isolated outward flow in perforators was uncommon. Treatment directed to the superficial veins alone may be sufficient for most patients with complications.

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