The use of power Doppler ultrasound in the diagnosis of isolated deep venous thrombosis of the calf

K Forbes, A J Stevenson
Clinical Radiology 1998, 53 (10): 752-4
While ultrasound has been well accepted as an accurate test for the diagnosis of both femoral and popliteal deep venous thrombosis (DVT), its role in the detection of calf DVT has been less clear. There have been variable results between studies in the accuracy of colour Doppler or compression sonographic techniques in demonstrating calf DVT. Many of these studies have suffered from high rates of technically inadequate examinations. Power Doppler (colour Doppler energy) has a higher sensitivity than conventional colour Doppler. It should therefore allow the detection of slow venous flow in patent vessels, that may not be demonstrated by conventional colour Doppler. This should decrease the number of technically inadequate examinations as well as decreasing the false-positive rate of the test. A prospective blinded reader study was undertaken comparing power Doppler to the gold standard venography, in the diagnosis of isolated calf deep venous thrombosis (DVT). Both examinations were successfully performed in 50 patients, in whom proximal DVT had been excluded by compression ultrasonography. Fifteen patients had positive evidence of an isolated calf DVT on the gold standard technique, venography. Power Doppler demonstrated a sensitivity of 100%, a specificity of 79%, a positive predictive value of 71% and a negative predictive value of 100%, in detecting an isolated calf DVT. There were no technically inadequate ultrasound examinations. Where venous flow is demonstrated, power Doppler is a highly accurate test in excluding a calf DVT. The specificity of the test, however, is limited, as the absence of flow does not always signify a DVT.

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