We investigated the hypothesis that the diagnostic accuracy of impedance plethysmography (IPG) for thrombosis of the popliteal or more proximal veins increases with enhanced venous filling. Venous filling was increased by prolonging cuff occlusion and by sequential testing. IPG and vengography were performed on 169 legs with and 317 legs without proximal vein thrombosis. The sensitivity and specificity of IPG rose significantly with increased venous filling. Changes in venous filling were associated with corresponding changes in emptying in normal legs, but not those with proximal vein thrombosis, so that the regression lines relating venous filling and emptying in normal and abnormal legs diverged significantly (P less than 0.001). If the IPG sequence had been terminated after only a single 45 second occlusion time test, sensitivity would have deteriorated by 10% and specificity by 20%. These observations indicate that the accuracy of IPG can be significantly enhanced if optimal venous filling is obtained.