Objectives: The incidence of recurrent varicose veins remains high despite the development of new ablative treatments for varicose veins associated with incompetence of the saphenofemoral junction. External valvular stenting (EVS) of the terminal and/or subterminal valves of the great saphenous vein (GSV) provides a reparative, physiological approach that requires long-term evaluation. The aim of this study was to compare recurrences following EVS with perforate invaginate (PIN) stripping of the GSV.
Methods: Included in the study were 193 patients (386 limbs) all of whom underwent simultaneous PIN-stripping of the GSV in one limb and EVS in the contralateral limb. Duplex scanning of the GSV and venous valves established suitability for each procedure. Only valves with visible, mobile cusps on ultrasound imaging are suitable for EVS. Stents were specifically designed Dacron reinforced silicone for left and right saphenofemoral junctions and for the subterminal valve. In a separate group of patients identified from a database where unilateral and bilateral stents had been implanted, 39 limbs with recurrent varices were examined clinically and ultrasonically to determine the aetiology of recurrences.
Results: Follow up was available to a maximum of 147 months. The total recurrence rate was 12.4%; stripping (22.2%) and EVS (4.6%) (P<0.01). The residual reflux as measured by postoperative Valsalva on duplex was 9% but rarely was associated with recurrences. The most common cause of recurrence was incompetent perforators and ovarian vein incompetence filling varices of the pudendal veins.
Conclusion: This non-randomised study included more severely affected limbs in the PIN stripping limbs, favouring a better outcome in the EVS group. In those patients at an early stage of the disease process where venous valve structure is essentially intact, EVS is a physiological alternative to PIN stripping in the treatment of varicose veins.