Background: The objective of this study was to assess the frequency of varicose recurrence 14 years after flush ligation of the saphenofemoral (SFJ) or saphenopopliteal (SPJ) junction with additional stripping of the incompetent saphenous vein.
Patients and methods: Our study group comprised 245 extremities of 210 patients operated upon in 1990 for either great saphenous vein (GSV) or small saphenous vein (SSV) incompetence. Limbs were assessed with Duplex ultrasound by a practitioner other than the original surgeon and relevant patient data was recorded.
Results: In 68.5% of re-examined limbs Duplex imaging provided no evidence for recurrent varicose veins at the former SFJ or SPJ. This included 15 legs (= 6.1%) where reflux immediately proximal to the junction but originating from adjacent veins (i.e. pudendal vein, epigastrical vein) was detected. In 31.5%, reflux from the operated SFJ or SPJ (junctional recurrence) was detected but only a minor percentage of legs (6.9%) had actually developed a clinically relevant recurrent varicosity (> 3 mm in diameter) branching out from the former junction and requiring treatment. Patients with a BMI < 30 were less likely to suffer recurrent varicose veins (no recurrence in 72.7%) than patients with a BMI > or = 30 (no recurrence in 54.5%).
Conclusions: 14 years after flush ligation of the SFJ or SPJ with stripping of the incompetent saphenous vein, junctional recurrences were found in less than one-third of re-examined extremities. In the absence of surgical errors, we must assume neovascularisation as cause for these recurrences. Duplex US determined a clinically relevant recurrence (> 3 mm in diameter) in only 7% of limbs. Post-operative varices seem to develop less often after SPJ surgery than after SFJ surgery and according to our data, obesity (BMI > or = 30) constitutes a significant risk factor.