Background: Chronic venous leg ulceration can be managed by compression treatment, elevation of the leg, and exercise. The addition of ablative superficial venous surgery to this strategy has not been shown to affect ulcer healing, but does reduce ulcer recurrence. We aimed to assess healing and recurrence rates after treatment with compression with or without surgery in people with leg ulceration.
Methods: We did venous duplex imaging of ulcerated or recently healed legs in 500 consecutive patients from three centres. We randomly allocated those with isolated superficial venous reflux and mixed superficial and deep reflux either compression treatment alone or in combination with superficial venous surgery. Compression consisted of multilayer compression bandaging every week until healing then class 2 below-knee stockings. Primary endpoints were 24-week healing rates and 12-month recurrence rates. Analysis was by intention to treat.
Findings: 40 patients were lost to follow-up and were censored. Overall 24-week healing rates were similar in the compression and surgery and compression alone groups (65% vs 65%, hazard 0.84 [95% CI 0.77 to 1.24]; p=0.85) but 12-month ulcer recurrence rates were significantly reduced in the compression and surgery group (12% vs 28%, hazard -2.76 [95% CI -1.78 to -4.27]; p<0.0001). Adverse events were minimal and about equal in each group.
Interpretation: Surgical correction of superficial venous reflux reduces 12-month ulcer recurrence. Most patients with chronic venous ulceration will benefit from the addition of simple venous surgery.