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May 1990

The Mechanism of Venous Valve Closure: Its Relationship to the Velocity of Reverse Flow

Author Affiliations

From the Department of Surgery, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle.

Arch Surg. 1990;125(5):617-619. doi:10.1001/archsurg.1990.01410170063013

• Venous valves will close when the reversal of the normal pressure gradient generates a sufficient reverse flow velocity. By testing 20 healthy subjects with ultrasonic duplex scanning and controlled limb compression, it was found that the velocity of reflux is related to the external compression pressure. Valve closure is an abrupt cessation of reverse flow. In this study, with subjects in a supine position, valve closure was achieved only after reverse velocities exceeded 30 cm/s. This velocity was not generated by manual compression of the limb. With a Valsalva maneuver, this velocity is achieved only in the common femoral vein in 90% of the tested individuals. The reflux velocities in response to a Valsalva maneuver are progressively lower in more distal veins—the profunda femoris, the superficial femoral vein, and the popliteal vein. With reverse velocities lower than 30 cm/s, the valves will not close and reflux can persist. Valsalva's maneuver only allows a diagnosis of valvular competence at the most proximal level in the venous tree.

(Arch Surg. 1990;125:617-619)