Clinical examination of varicose veins - a validation study

Jong Kim, James's Hospital, Patrick Kent

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The aim of this study was to determine the accuracy of clinical tests compared to colour duplex imaging in patients with primary varicose veins using a prospective, blinded comparison study. A total of 44 patients (70 limbs) with primary, previously untreated varicose veins presenting to the vascular laboratory of a university teaching hospital were studied. The patients underwent physical examination using the cough test, the tap test, Trendelenbergs' test, Perthes' test and hand-held Doppler (HHD) assessment prior to undergoing colour duplex scanning. Reflux was detected on duplex scanning, at the sapheno-femoral junction in 39/70 limbs (54%), the long saphenous vein in 47/70 limbs (64%) and the sapheno-popliteal junction in 9/70 limbs (13%). The cough test had low sensitivity (0.59) and specificity (0.67). The tap test had low sensitivity (0.18) and high specificity (0.92). The Trendelenberg test had high sensitivity (0.91) but low specificity (0.15). Perthes' test had a high sensitivity (0.97) but low specificity (0.20). Hand-held Doppler assessment of reflux at the sapheno-femoral junction, in the long saphenous vein and at the sapheno-popliteal junction had high sensitivity (0.97, 0.82, and 0.80, respectively) and specificity (0.73, 0.92, and 0.90, respectively) of detecting reflux. Clinical tests used in the examination of patients with primary varicose veins are inaccurate. Assessment using hand-held Doppler is more accurate. Courses and clinical textbooks should be revised to replace these tests with instruction in how to use hand-held Doppler in the clinical examination of patients with varicose veins.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)171-175
Number of pages5
JournalAnnals of the Royal College of Surgeons of England
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2000


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