Objectives: To establish the status of the deep veins in patients presenting with recurrent varicose veins and the effect on treatment decisions.
Design: Retrospective clinical series.
Materials and methods: Duplex examination of 570 consecutive patients (843 limbs) presenting with recurrent varicose veins (CEAP C2-4).
Results: Approximately one third of these patients (34.8%:294 limbs) had no deep venous abnormality; 173 limbs with superficial vein abnormalities only had great and/or small saphenous junction incompetence, the remaining 121 legs had abnormal perforating or communicating veins. Deep venous abnormalities were found in 549 limbs with evidence of persisting deep venous obstruction in only 20. Deep venous incompetence was found in 529 limbs (62.7% of all legs). However three segment incompetence (common femoral, femoral and popliteal veins) was found in only 181 legs (21.4%), two segment incompetence in 137 (16.2%) and one segment incompetence in 211 (25%).
Conclusions: Deep vein incompetence is common in patients with recurrent varicose veins. Deep venous obstruction is an infrequent finding but total deep venous reflux (three segment incompetence) affects just under one quarter of all limbs with recurrent varicose veins. Ablation or surgery of varicose veins in this group may be less effective. Patients should be advised of the implications of this finding.