Diurnal changes of lower leg volume in obese and non-obese subjects

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Obesity is a risk factor for chronic venous disease. However, the mechanisms behind this association are poorly understood. We tested the hypothesis that obese subjects have a higher diurnal leg volume increase compared with non-obese subjects.


In this prospective cohort study including obese (body mass index, BMI ≥30 kg m-2) and non-obese (BMI ≤25 kg m-2) subjects without venous insufficiency, lower leg volume was assessed by optoelectronic volumetry in the morning and in the evening. All subjects underwent duplex ultrasound and light reflection rheography (venous pump power and venous refill time, VRT) to investigate lower extremity venous function. A pedometer was carried between the morning and evening visit to assess the daily number of footsteps. A backward multivariable linear regression model was used to determine factors associated with diurnal lower leg volume increase.


Forty-two limbs in 24 obese subjects and 29 limbs in 15 non-obese subjects were analyzed. Obese subjects had larger common femoral vein diameters (17.1±2.4 vs 15.5±2.4 mm, P<0.01) and slower peak, mean and minimal velocities (25.1±10.6 vs 44.3±14.3 cm s-1; 6.8±2.4 vs 12.7±5.6 cm s-1; -0.2±6.4 vs -6.3±11.9 cm s-1; P<0.01 for all) than non-obese subjects. VRT was shorter in obese subjects (40.5±15.0 vs 51.0±12.1 s, P<0.01) and decreased significantly in the course of the day only in obese subjects (P<0.01). Obesity, male gender, CEAP (Clinical-Etiology-Anatomy-Pathophysiology) class, total time between the two visits and difference between morning and evening VRT were positively associated with higher lower leg volume increase; morning VRT and the total number of footsteps showed a negative association (P<0.04 for all).


Obesity was found to be an independent predictor of higher diurnal leg volume increase. One potential mechanism is a progressive failure of venous valve function in the course of the day in obese subjects.

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