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J Vasc Surg. 2001 Nov;34(5):872-7.

Nonsaphenous superficial vein reflux.

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Department of Surgery, Loyola University Medical Center, Maywood, Illinois 60153-3304, USA.



Information on nonsaphenous superficial venous reflux is lacking. This study was designed to determine the prevalence of reflux in nonsaphenous veins, their association and correlation with risk factors, and signs and symptoms of chronic venous disease (CVD).


Information on 835 limbs in patients with signs and symptoms of CVD were prospectively entered into a customized database. These patients had been referred from the venous clinic to the vascular laboratory for color-flow duplex scanning evaluation of the lower-limb veins. All patients were examined for reflux in the standing and sitting positions. Nonsaphenous reflux was defined as that in superficial veins that are not part of the greater or lesser saphenous systems. Particular attention was paid to the patterns of reflux and anatomy of the nonsaphenous veins from the proximal to the distal ends, including their connections with the saphenous and deep veins.


Nonsaphenous venous reflux was found in 84 limbs (10%) of 72 patients, 67 of whom were women. The mean number of pregnancies in these patients was higher than that of 100 randomly selected women with saphenous reflux (3.2 vs 2.2). According to CEAP classification, 90% of the limbs were in CVD classes 1 through 3 and only 10% had skin damage (classes 4-6). Symptoms were present in 67 limbs (80%). Forty-two limbs (50%) had reflux in tributaries of lateral, posterior, and medial thigh. These veins were connected with perforators uniting with the deep femoral, femoral, and muscular veins of the thigh in 36 limbs. Reflux in these perforators was detected in 19 limbs. Reflux arising from the pelvic veins was found in 29 limbs (34%), 18 of which were from vulvar veins medial to saphenofemoral junction and 11 of which were from veins in the gluteal area. Incompetent veins from the sciatic nerve were found in nine limbs (10%). Reflux in the vein of the popliteal fossa was found in seven limbs (8%). Reflux in knee tributaries was detected in three limbs (4%), two of which were connected with posterolateral knee perforators and one with the posterior tibial nerve veins.


The prevalence of nonsaphenous reflux in our practice was 10%. The vast majority of these patients (93%) were women with a mean of 3.2 pregnancies. Ninety percent of these limbs have signs and symptoms assigned to CVD classes 1 to 3. These data may simply reflect the referral pattern, but also a possible association with female sex and number of pregnancies. The unusual anatomy of these veins stresses the importance of color-flow duplex scanning before surgery.

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