How do your veins work?
A venous reflux test is a noninvasive examination used to test the function of the valves in leg veins. It is typically ordered for patients who complain of varicose veins or symptoms or signs that may be caused by venous disease. While some patients with varicose veins may only have concerns about the appearance of their legs, some experience significant symptoms. Vein symptoms can include soreness, heaviness, aching, itching, restless legs and/or leg fatigue. Signs of venous disease include leg swelling, discoloration, skin irritation and leg ulcers.
As suggested by its name, the primary condition detected during the procedure is venous reflux, also known as venous insufficiency (VI). Venous valves are supposed to be one-way valves, allowing the blood to return from the legs to the heart and lungs. Venous insufficiency is a condition characterized by backward flow of blood through valves that are not working properly. Venous insufficiency affects millions of people in the United States. Venous insufficiency also tends to be a progressive disease that only worsens with time and may trigger more serious medical problems if left untreated.
Valve dysfunction causing venous reflux can lead to spider and varicose veins, leg symptoms, as well as swelling and discoloration in the legs. Unfortunately, spider veins and varicose veins do not go away on their own. However they can be treated with sclerotherapy, light therapy, laser treatment, microphlebectomy, endovenous ablation and sometimes vein surgery.
To examine a patient’s legs for venous reflux, a doctor will perform a venous reflux test. The venous reflux test is performed in an outpatient setting and usually takes between 20 and 60 minutes to complete, depending on whether the doctor is looking at one or both legs. In general, venous reflux tests are best done with the patient standing. The doctor uses an ultrasound device to examine valve function, direction of blood flow, speed of blood flow, as well as vein size on an imaging screen. The doctor will gently squeeze parts of the legs during the venous reflux test to see how circulation responds.
A venous reflux test is completely non-invasive. It is performed for the sole purpose of obtaining a diagnosis, so it is usually covered by insurance companies. The physician will be able to determine what treatment options would be more appropriate to consider based on the results of the ultrasound examination. If you have questions about vein health and would like to receive a venous reflux test, find a vein doctor listed in our medical directory.
Reviewed by Steven E. Zimmet, MD, RVT, FACPh
Editor of Phlebology
President, Zimmet Vein & Dermatology
Past-President, American College of Phlebology