Digital photoplethysmography in the diagnosis of suspected lower limb DVT: is it useful?

Eur J Vasc Endovasc Surg. 1999 Jul;18(1):71-9. doi: 10.1053/ejvs.1999.0886.


Objective: to determine the role of digital photoplethysmography (D-PPG) in the diagnosis of deep-vein thrombosis (DVT), in comparison to the "gold standard" of either contrast ascending venography (ACV) or colour-flow duplex imaging (CFDI).

Method: prospective study of 100 hospital inpatients (103 legs) referred to the X-ray department for ACV or CFDI with clinically suspected lower limb DVT in a district general hospital. Each patient was assessed by either ACV or CFDI, and D-PPG.

Results: thirty-seven limbs were found to have DVT as demonstrated by ACV or CFDI. All patients with a venous refilling time (RT) of greater than 20 s and venous pump (VP) of greater than 35 had a normal ACV or CFDI. Using RT of less than 21 s as the optimal cut-off point, D-PPG achieved a sensitivity of 100%, negative-predictive value of 100%, specificity of 47% and positive-predictive value of 51%. By using VP of less than 36 as the optimal cut-off point, a sensitivity of 100%, a negative-predictive value of 100%, a specificity of 35% and positive-predictive value of 46% were achieved.

Conclusions: these results validate the use of portable D-PPG as a useful screening tool for the diagnosis of clinically suspected lower limb DVT. A positive test requires further confirmation by one of the "gold standard" methods, whereas a negative test effectively excludes DVT.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Phlebography
  • Photoplethysmography / methods*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Ultrasonography
  • Venous Thrombosis / diagnosis*