Low accuracy of color Doppler ultrasound in the detection of proximal leg vein thrombosis in asymptomatic high-risk patients

B. L. Davidson, C. G. Elliott, A. W.A. Lensing, V. Cabanas, C. Chenault, D. Dall, D. R. Chandler, D. Drennan, M. Suchyta, R. J. Friedman, M. Goble, H. E. Groth, S. Hoff, J. Heit, A. Hofmann, L. Murdock, T. Hyers, J. Ohar, W. M. Johnson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

217 Scopus citations


Objective: To evaluate the ability of color Doppler ultrasound to detect proximal deep venous thrombosis (DVT) in asymptomatic high-risk patients who subsequently underwent contrast venography. Design: Prospective cohort study using blinded observers, with contrast venography as the comparison standard. Setting: Seven medical centers (university and community hospitals) participating in a clinical trial of low-molecular-weight heparin for prevention of DVT. Patients: A total of 385 consecutive patients undergoing elective unilateral hip or knee replacement. Measurements: Ten days after surgery or before hospital discharge (whichever occurred first), patients had bilateral color Doppler ultrasound examinations of the proximal veins of the lower extremities. Subsequently, a contrast venogram of the operated leg was obtained. Results: Color Doppler ultrasound studies and venograms were both evaluable in 319 of the 385 patients: Deep venous thrombosis was identified by contrast venography in 80 patients (prevalence, 25%; 95% CI, 20% to 30%) and involved the proximal veins in 21 patients (prevalence, 7%; CI, 4% to 10%). For proximal DVT, color Doppler ultrasound showed poor sensitivity (38%; CI, 18% to 62%), moderately good specificity (92%; CI, 89% to 95%), and a poor positive predictive value for this population (26%). Conclusion: Color Doppler ultrasound examinations are insensitive to proximal DVT in asymptomatic high-risk patients and should not be substituted for venography for identifying proximal DVT in such patients.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)735-738
Number of pages4
JournalAnnals of internal medicine
Issue number9
StatePublished - 1992

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Internal Medicine


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