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J Vasc Surg. 1995 Feb;21(2):307-12; discussion 313.

Relationship between changes in the deep venous system and the development of the postthrombotic syndrome after an acute episode of lower limb deep vein thrombosis: a one- to six-year follow-up.

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University of Washington School of Medicine, Division of Vascular Surgery, Seattle 98195.



This study investigated changes in the deep venous system and the development of the postthrombotic syndrome (PTS) after an episode of acute deep vein thrombosis (DVT).


Seventy-eight patients (41 male patients, 37 female patients) with acute DVT in 83 legs (31 right, 42 left, five bilateral) underwent annual follow-up examinations for 1 to 6 years (median, 3 years) for symptoms and signs of the PTS. A venous duplex scan was performed at each visit to detect obstruction and reflux in the veins, both of which may contribute to the development of the PTS. DVT was primary in 69 limbs and recurrent in 14 limbs.


When last examined 49 limbs were free of symptoms, and 34 had the PTS (23 edema only, 11 hyperpigmentation). Only two patients had ulcers during the follow-up period; both patients had the ulcers in areas of hyperpigmentation in limbs with recurrent DVT. The extent of disease was similar in limbs with the PTS (79% multisegment, 18% single segment) and those without the PTS (69% multisegment, 12% single segment). In limbs with the PTS the deep veins were normal in only one (3%), six (18%) showed reflux only, five (15%) obstruction only, and 22 had features of both obstruction and reflux (65%). In limbs without the PTS the deep veins showed no abnormality in nine (18%), reflux only in 17 (35%), obstruction only in six (12%), and reflux with obstruction in 17 (35%). In the 11 limbs with hyperpigmentation nine had obstruction and reflux noted, one had obstruction only, and one had reflux alone.


After an episode of acute DVT 12% of the limbs returned to normal by duplex criteria. Although only 13% developed skin complications, 41% had features of the PTS. Limbs with the PTS had more than three times the odds of having combined reflux and obstruction than did limbs without the PTS (odds ratio = 3.5, 0.95 confidence intervals = 1.4, 8.6). Continued study of these patients will determine the course of those limbs with venous abnormalities that have not yet developed symptoms and signs of the PTS.

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