because reflux in superficial vein tributaries is most often collectively reported with the main saphenous veins, its importance remains largely unrecognised. This study was designed to identify the distribution and extent of non-truncal superficial venous reflux and its association with the signs and symptoms of chronic venous disease (CVD).
eighty-four limbs in 62 patients with signs and symptoms of CVD and evidence of reflux on continuous-wave Doppler were subsequently examined with colour-flow duplex imaging. Incompetent superficial vein tributaries were imaged throughout their extent and both ends were identified. Limbs with reflux in the main trunk of the saphenous veins or the deep, perforator or muscular veins, superficial or deep vein thrombosis, injection sclerotherapy, varicose-vein surgery, arterial disease and inflammation of non-venous origin were excluded from the study. The CEAP classification system was used for staging clinical severity of CVD.
the prevalence of tributary reflux alone was 9.7% (84/860). Reflux was detected in 171 tributaries. The number of incompetent tributaries ranged from 1 to 5 per limb. Most prevalent were the tributaries to the greater saphenous (111, 65%<0. 0001), followed by those of lesser saphenous (33, 19%) or a combination of both (12, 7%). Incompetent non-saphenous tributaries were uncommon (15, 9%). Among the named tributaries in the lower limb the posterior arch vein was most often incompetent (46, 27%) followed by the anterolateral vein of the thigh (30, 18%), the medial accessory vein (16, 9%) and the anterior arch vein (14, 8%). Reflux in above-the-knee tributaries alone was found in 18 limbs (21%), in below the knee in 23 (28%) and in both sites in 43 (51%). The vast majority of the limbs (71%,p <0.0001) belonged to CVD class 2, 14% in class 3, 9% in class 1 and only 6% in class 4. Class 3 and 4 patients tended to have a longer duration of signs and symptoms, higher number of incompetent tributaries per limb and also a higher prevalence of combined above- and below-knee reflux.
these data indicate that reflux confined to superficial tributaries is found throughout the lower limb. Because this reflux is present without greater and lesser saphenous trunk, perforator and deep-vein incompetence or proximal obstruction, it shows that reflux can develop in any vein without an apparent feeding source. Greater saphenous tributaries are affected significantly more often than those of lesser saphenous, while non-saphenous reflux is uncommon. Most limbs have signs and symptoms of CVD class 2 and 15% belong in classes 3 and 4.