Duplex scanning was used to determine patterns of recurrent varicose veins in 264 limbs and to relate these to clinical factors. All limbs had previously undergone sapheno-femoral ligation in the groin. A recurrent sapheno-femoral junction was present in 172 (65.2%). Incompetence was found in long or short saphenous veins in 232 limbs (87.9%), perforators in 176 (66.7%), and deep veins in 156 (59.1%). Residual long saphenous veins were present in 43.4% and 73.6% of limbs that were with and without stripped long saphenous veins, respectively. An incompetent thigh perforator was present in 14.0% and 15.3% of these two groups, respectively. Multiple sites of incompetence were observed in the majority (75.4%). In general, no particular reflux pattern in the groin was related to an increased incidence of ulceration. However, ulceration was more frequent in limbs with deep reflux to knee or below-knee levels. None of those with isolated reflux in the groin that was unrelated to the common femoral vein had ulceration. The pattern of reflux was unrelated to striping or non-striping of the long saphenous veins and the time since initial surgery. A history of deep vein thrombosis was invariably associated with some degree of deep reflux. A system of recurrent patterns in the groin is described for the purpose of surgical audit. In 15.1%, recurrence was attributed with some confidence to inadequate surgery. These results indicate that the pattern of recurrence is highly variable and often with multiple sites of incompetence. In a few instances, the pattern of recurrence was associated with specific clinical factors. A full work-up including duplex scanning is recommended.