What is the hypoxia/stasis theory for the pathogenesis of stasis dermatitis?

Updated: Mar 27, 2020
  • Author: Scott L Flugman, MD; Chief Editor: Dirk M Elston, MD  more...
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The earliest theories regarding the cause of cutaneous inflammation in venous insufficiency centered on oxygen perfusion of lower-extremity tissues. Originally, an incompetent venous system was thought to lead to pooling of blood in the superficial veins, with reduced flow and therefore reduced oxygen tension in the dermal capillaries. This pooling hypothesis led to the term stasis dermatitis. It was believed that the decreased oxygen content of pooled blood led to hypoxic damage to the overlying skin.

The hypoxia/stasis theory was refuted by evidence that instead of pooled, stagnant blood with low oxygen tension, leg veins in patients with venous insufficiency have increased flow rates and high oxygen tension. Arteriovenous shunting could have accounted for these findings, but no evidence of shunting in patients with venous insufficiency was found. The complete lack of evidence to support a hypoxia/stasis theory has led many investigators to advocate the abandonment of the term stasis dermatitis.

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