Background: Duplication of the popliteal and superficial femoral veins (PV, SFV) is a normal variant previously reported in up to 25% of limbs. Little clinical significance, however, has been attributed to this apparently common anomaly. The present study was designed to determine the incidence of duplications in individuals presenting for venous incompetence studies, and whether their presence could, in theory, act as a predisposing factor to deep venous thrombosis (DVT) formation.
Methods: Duplex ultrasound examinations were performed in which venous duplications were actively searched for and recorded. The diameters of both limbs of any duplicated system and the single vessel immediately distal to it were recorded. Using these measurements, the changes in total cross-sectional area (CSA) associated with these anomalies were calculated. In addition, with the knowledge that the volume flow rate must remain constant, the velocity changes associated with such systems were calculated.
Results: A total of 248 limbs from 177 patients was scanned. Duplications were found in 39 (15.7%) of these limbs. Of these, 30 limbs (77%) involved only the SFV, seven (18%) involved both the SFV and PV, and two (5%) involved only the PV. Short-segment SFV duplications were used to calculate the percentage change in total CSA and therefore blood flow velocities. Of the 13 (33%) suitable for such calculations, and calculating for each individual duplicated system, a mean increase in the vessel's total CSA of 42%, which corresponded to a theoretical decrease in blood flow velocity of 36%, was found.
Conclusion: The present study confirms the significantly high incidence of duplications of the PV and SFV and raises the possibility of the potential for DVT formation secondary to changes in flow velocities.