This study was undertaken to assess which ultrasound-derived parameter was superior for measuring venous reflux quantitatively and to evaluate the importance of popliteal vein valve reflux.
A retrospective analysis was performed of 244 refluxive limbs in 182 patients who underwent ultrasound scanning, venous pressure measurement, air plethysmography, and clinical classification of severity according to the CEAP score. Reflux time (RT, s), peak reflux velocity (PRV, m/s), time of average rate of reflux (TAF, mL/min), absolute displaced volume retrogradely (ADV, mL) were compared to clinical class, ambulatory venous pressure (% drop), venous filling time (s), and venous filling index (mL/s) using nonparametric statistical tests. A P value of <.05 was considered significant. Limbs were divided into 3 groups: (A) axial great saphenous vein reflux only (n = 68); (B) axial deep reflux including popliteal vein incompetence with or without concomitant gastrocnemius or great or small saphenous vein reflux (all ultrasound reflux parameters of each refluxive vein added at the knee level) (n = 79); and (C) all limbs with popliteal vein reflux (the ultrasound data of the refluxive popliteal vein exclusively was used in comparison regardless of concomitant associated reflux) (n = 103). Limbs were also stratified into limbs with skin changes and ulcer (C-class 4-6) and those without (C-class 1-3) and subsequently compared.
No meaningful significant correlation was found between RT and the clinical and hemodynamic results in groups A and B. The PRV and TAF correlated significantly with the hemodynamic parameters. The PRV and TAF and clinical severity trended towards correlation in group A (P =.0554 and P =.0998, respectively), but was significantly correlated in group B. The poor hemodynamic condition in the subset of C-class 4-6 limbs in groups A and B was reflected in a greater PRV, TAF, and ADV in this subset as compared with the limbs in C-class 1-3. RT was not significantly different in the subsets of limbs, further suggesting that RT is not related to hemodynamic or clinical state of the limbs. No meaningful correlations were found in group C. Although the hemodynamic data were significantly poorer in the subset of limbs with C-class 4-6 than in C-class 1-3, the ultrasound-derived parameters were not significantly different.
The duration of valve reflux time (or valve closure time) cannot be used to quantify severity of reflux and is purely a qualitative measurement. The PRV and the rate of reflux appeared to better reflect the magnitude of venous incompetence. In the presence of axial reflux, it appeared logical and physiologically correct to sum up these reflux parameters for each venous segment crossing the knee. The popliteal valve reflux (the "gatekeeper" function) was not in itself an important determinant of venous hemodynamics and clinical severity. Additional reflux in other venous segments must be taken into account.