Sonographic assessment of lower limb vein diameters: implications for the diagnosis and characterization of deep venous thrombosis.
OBJECTIVE: The goals of this study were to define the normal range of diameters in the deep veins of the thigh and to compare this range with diameters of veins with acute thrombus and of veins with chronic changes from prior deep venous thrombosis (DVT). SUBJECTS AND METHODS: The anteroposterior diameter of the vein and adjacent artery was measured at five predefined levels in 975 legs of patients referred for sonographic examination for suspected DVT. The mean vein diameter and mean vein-to-artery ratio were calculated for normal veins, vein segments with acute DVT, and vein segments with chronic changes from prior DVT. RESULTS: The diameter of normal deep leg veins was largest at the level of the common femoral vein (mean diameter, 10.5 mm). The diameter progressively decreased until the mid superficial femoral vein and remained relatively constant (mean diameter, 6.4-6.8 mm) more caudally. Similarly, vein-to-artery ratios progressed from a mean ratio of 1.3 in the common femoral vein to 1.2 at other levels. We found no significant differences in vein diameter between the right and the left legs. Vein segments with acute thrombus were larger than corresponding segments of normal veins. However, we found considerable overlap in the ranges of diameter of veins with and without acute DVT. At corresponding levels, veins with chronic DVT tended to be narrower than normal veins; however, the differences were small, and this diameter range also substantially overlaps that of normal veins. CONCLUSION: When grouped, veins with acute DVT were larger than normal veins. Likewise, veins with chronic DVT were smaller than normal veins. Because we found that the ranges of diameters of veins overlapped for different groups of veins, size alone is unlikely to provide compelling evidence for the diagnosis of acute versus chronic DVT, except at extreme diameters. Diameters of veins as revealed by sonography should be interpreted in the context of other sonographic findings.
Hertzberg, BS; Kliewer, MA; DeLong, DM; Lalouche, KJ; Paulson, EK; Frederick, MG; Carroll, BA
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