The role of air plethysmography in the diagnosis of chronic venous insufficiency

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Abstract

Purpose:

The role of air plethysmography (APG) in the diagnosis of venous disease is not well defined. We conducted this study to investigate the value of APG in the diagnosis of chronic venous insufficiency and to determine its correlation with the clinical severity of disease and the anatomic distribution of reflux.

Methods:

We studied 186 lower extremities with duplex scanning and venography and measured the venous volume, venous filling index (VFI), ejection fraction, and residual volume fraction with APG. Limbs were categorized according to the Society for Vascular Surgery and International Society for Cardiovascular Surgery classification of clinical severity of disease and according to the anatomic distribution of valvular incompetence.

Results:

Sixty-one limbs had no evidence of disease (class 0), 60 limbs had mild disease (classes 1, 2, and 3), and 65 limbs had severe disease (classes 4, 5, and 6). According to the results of duplex scanning and venography, there was no evidence of reflux in 56 limbs. Isolated superficial venous reflux occurred in 52 limbs, and perforator reflux, alone or in conjunction with superficial reflux, occurred in 30. Deep reflux, with or without superficial reflux, was found in 25 limbs. Deep and perforator reflux, with or without superficial reflux, was found in 19 limbs. The VFI had a sensitivity of 80% and 99% positive predictive value for any type of reflux. The VFI was significantly different between groups of limbs with different clinical severities of disease or different types of reflux. The incidence of deep or perforator reflux in limbs with a normal VFI value was 7%, and it was 82% in limbs with a VFI of more than 5. Among 86 limbs with VFI values not corrected with use of a thigh tourniquet, 28% did not have evidence of deep or perforator reflux, and among 15 limbs with VFI values corrected with the use of a tourniquet, 33% had perforator reflux, deep reflux, or both. All APG parameters had low positive predictive values for severe disease or ulceration. The ejection fraction and residual volume fraction did not influence the clinical severity of disease, did not discriminate between types of reflux, and in combination with the VFI did not improve the predictive value of APG.

Conclusions:

The VFI measured by APG is an excellent predictor of venous reflux, provides an estimate of the clinical severity of disease, and at high levels predicts deep reflux, perforator reflux, or both. Correction of an abnormal VFI with a thigh tourniquet is an unreliable predictor of the absence of deep or perforator incompetence. The predictive value of APG for severe disease or ulceration is poor. The ejection fraction and residual volume fraction, individually or in combination with the VFI, add little to the diagnostic value of APG, and their routine performance may not be clinically justified.

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