Pelvic venous incompetence: reflux patterns and treatment results

Eur J Vasc Endovasc Surg. 2009 Sep;38(3):381-6. doi: 10.1016/j.ejvs.2009.05.023. Epub 2009 Jul 1.


Objective: To assess reflux patterns and the results of endovascular obliteration of ovarian veins in patients with symptomatic pelvic venous incompetence (PVI).

Methods: A total of 71 female patients (mean age 49 years) with signs of PVI on selective phlebography of the pelvic veins were included in the study. In 53 cases (75%), recurrent varicose veins following previous surgery and stripping of the great saphenous vein were present and 51 patients (72%) were multiparous (> or = 2 children). Symptoms were scored on a visual analogue scale (VAS) assessing pelvic and lower limb pain. After duplex ultrasonography of the lower limb veins, in cases of suspected PVI, the presence of any reflux in the ovarian and pelvic veins was demonstrated by phlebography. In selected cases, endovascular treatment with embolisation was used. Follow-up assessment of symptoms was carried out at 1, 2 and 3 years.

Results: The left ovarian vein (OV) and the right internal iliac vein (IIV) were most frequently affected by reflux (n=41, 58% each). In about half the number of patients, reflux was demonstrated in more than one of the main pelvic veins (n=38, 54%). An extension of reflux into varicose veins of the groin or lower limb was demonstrated in 44 patients (62%); 35 patients (49%) received treatment for their PVI by coil embolisation. Fifty-five patients (77%) completed follow-up. Patients with isolated ovarian vein incompetence, who were treated by embolisation, experienced a significant improvement of symptoms (mean symptom score 5.2 standard deviation (SD) 3.5 before and 1.2 SD 0.9 after embolisation treatment; p<0.0001), while patients with untreated incompetence did not show improvement in symptoms (mean score 4.5 SD 1.6 before and 5.1 SD 1.5 after conservative treatment; non-significant (N.S.)). Improved symptoms were detected in patients with isolated IIV incompetence, who underwent embolisation treatment (mean symptom score 5.1 SD 2.5 before and 2.1 SD 1.6 after treatment; N.S.) although this did not reach statistical significance. Conservative treatment of patients with isolated IIV incompetence resulted in no relevant changes (mean score 4.2 SD 2.0 before and 4.5 SD 2.1 after treatment; N.S.). Worsening of symptoms was found in patients with combined reflux who underwent conservative treatment (mean score 5.3 SD 2.0 before and 6.5 SD 2.5 after treatment, N.S.). In case of combined OV and IIV reflux, isolated interventional treatment of incompetent ovarian veins did not improve symptoms at each interval of the follow-up (mean score 5.2 SD 2.1 before and 5.1 SD 2.6 after treatment, N.S.), while coiling of all reflux pathways resulted in symptom reduction; but this did not reach statistical significance due to the small numbers of patients (mean score 5.6 SD 2.2 before and 3.2 SD 2.1 after treatment, N.S.).

Conclusions: Combined reflux in more than one pelvic vein is common. In these cases, isolated treatment of ovarian veins or conservative treatment is associated with a poor midterm clinical outcome. A clinical improvement was achieved only in patients with isolated ovarian vein incompetence.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Embolization, Therapeutic*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Iliac Vein / physiopathology*
  • Middle Aged
  • Ovary / blood supply*
  • Pain Measurement
  • Patient Selection
  • Pelvic Pain / etiology
  • Pelvic Pain / prevention & control
  • Pelvis / blood supply*
  • Phlebography
  • Regional Blood Flow
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Time Factors
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Ultrasonography, Doppler, Duplex
  • Varicose Veins / complications
  • Varicose Veins / diagnosis
  • Varicose Veins / physiopathology
  • Varicose Veins / therapy*
  • Venous Insufficiency / complications
  • Venous Insufficiency / diagnosis
  • Venous Insufficiency / physiopathology
  • Venous Insufficiency / therapy*