Venous Reflux Exams

What are venous reflux exams?

Patients who are concerned about different types of venous conditions may undergo a venous reflux exam to get an accurate diagnosis of their condition. The purpose of these examinations is to evaluate vein function, blood flow and potential reflux and insufficiency of valve function inside veins of the legs and other areas. Venous reflux exams are non-invasive and may consist of various tests to assess current blood flow and areas where reflux might be occurring.

Venous reflux exams may be performed on their own or in combination with other tests, such as venography and arteriography. These more invasive examinations may be recommended based on what is seen during the venous reflux exam, for more accurate diagnosing of various venous conditions and treatment recommendations. Venous reflux exams are typically accompanied by a physical examination and full medical history of the patient to detect potential issues that could be contributing to venous insufficiency. 

When is it done?

Venous reflux exams are often recommended for patients that are exhibiting various symptoms of chronic venous insufficiency, including:

  • The appearance of varicose veins
  • Swelling of the legs and ankles
  • Pain or achiness in the legs, especially after prolonged periods of sitting or standing
  • Burning or itching of the skin around the varicose vein
  • Changes to the color or texture of the skin
  • Leg fatigue after sitting or standing for long periods
  • The formation of sores around the ankle that don’t heal well or return after treatment

How do venous reflux exams work?

There are two basic types of venous reflux exams. The first is known as a sensory test, which attaches a sensor to the leg of the patient to evaluate the time it takes for blood to move from the heart to the lower leg. This exam is non-invasive and often the first diagnostic tool used when chronic venous insufficiency is suspected.

The second type of venous reflux exam is one that uses ultrasound to map veins and assess blood flow. Also considered non-invasive, this exam allows the physician to determine both direction and velocity of blood flow, which helps to diagnose a variety of venous conditions. This examination also provides information about the function of the valves inside the veins, which is usually a telltale sign of whether chronic venous insufficiency is present and the reasons why.

Ultrasound is a procedure that uses sound waves to transmit pictures of veins and blood flowing inside of them. The pictures are detected using a handheld device called a Doppler or transducer, which is run across the surface of the skin in the location of the affected veins. A gel is applied to the skin prior to the procedure to make it easier for the technician to see the sound waves. Diagnosis of vein size, blood flow, the presence of blood clots and function of the valves inside the veins may be assessed through ultrasound examinations.

How are venous reflux examinations performed?

Venous reflux examinations are commonly performed in the office of a vascular specialist. There are no special preparations for the examinations, so they can be completed at any time. The examinations do not require any injections or incisions, nor do they involve any type of anesthesia. Exams can often be completed in less than one hour and patients are free to return to normal activities as soon as the examination is completed.

Venous reflux examinations may provide immediate results and a diagnosis of a venous condition. In some cases, the examination may be performed by a technician and the results forwarded to the physician for diagnosis and treatment recommendation. In these cases, it may take a day or two for the patient to learn the results of the exam.

What are the benefits and costs of venous reflux examinations?

Venous reflux examinations are often the first step in diagnosing and treating a variety of venous conditions. Innovative technology allows physicians that specialize in vascular conditions to make an accurate diagnosis and recommend treatment options without invasive surgical procedures at the beginning of the process.

Because venous reflux examinations are often recommended in response to symptoms of venous insufficiency and other vein conditions, insurance companies typically cover at least a portion of the cost of these exams. The specific cost will vary based on the type of examination performed and the location of the physician.