Purpose: We have prospectively evaluated the need for serial venous duplex ultrasound examinations in an inpatient population with an initially normal study result.
Methods: Patients were selected for study on the basis of clinical suspicion of pulmonary embolism and possible lower extremity deep vein thrombosis, a comorbid condition contributing to a nondiagnostic ventilation/perfusion lung scan, and an initially normal bilateral venous duplex ultrasound examination that included complete evaluation of the femoropopliteal system and the deep calf veins. Repeat duplex examinations were done during the same hospital admission between 5 and 14 days after the initial study.
Results: Ninety-four patients with an initially normal duplex ultrasound examination result had repeat studies done at an average of 7.9 +/- 2.6 days. Ninety-two examination results remained normal bilaterally. Two patients had isolated intramuscular calf vein deep vein thrombosis: one in the gastrocnemius system of both calves with associated calf tenderness at 11-day follow-up and one in a mid-calf soleal vein without associated symptoms at 10 days. No patients had any evidence of deep vein thrombosis in the femoropopliteal or tibioperoneal venous systems.
Conclusions: Serial follow-up duplex ultrasound evaluation is unnecessary after an initially complete, normal study in patients with symptoms who have suspected pulmonary embolism and nondiagnostic ventilation-perfusion lung scans.