According to the National Institutes of Health, up to 40% of adults have varicose veins to some degree. Varicose veins are swollen or distended veins that most often appear on the legs and feet. They occur when one-way valves in the veins become too weak to keep blood circulating upwards to the heart. As blood pools in the veins over time, many people notice that certain veins under on their legs or feet look enlarged, twisted, and blueish.
For example, Mary clearly knew that she had varicose veins. She could see the raised, ropey, blue veins on her shins and calves, and she hated how they made her legs look. But worse than that, she was tired of the symptoms they caused—her legs were often swollen, painful, achey, or just felt heavy. She knew there were treatments that could help, but the only person she knew who’d had varicose veins removed was her Grandmother, and hers wasn’t an example that inspired Mary to seek her own treatment.
Many years earlier, Mary’s grandmother was suffering from so much pain from her varicose veins that her doctor recommended she see a surgeon to have the diseased veins removed. At that time, the traditional standard procedure was to “strip” large varicose veins, meaning to surgically remove them. Vein stripping for varicose veins requires general anesthesia, a hospital stay, and a good deal of pain and bruising.
Mary didn’t want to go through that kind of surgical procedure, so she kept putting off seeking treatment for her varicose veins. That is, until a friend mentioned that she’d recently had her varicose veins treated—on her lunch hour, no less, and that she’d gone back to work afterwards with very little pain. She told Mary that there are newer treatments for varicose veins that are much easier and quicker than the vein stripping her Grandmother had experienced.
Minimally-Invasive Varicose Vein Procedures
Today, traditional vein-stripping surgeries are used in only the more severe cases of varicose veins. Treatment of most varicose veins today no longer means a painful surgery requiring a hospital stay and a prolonged recovery. Some procedures utilize laser techniques, while others inject foam into the veins. These minimally-invasive procedures are typically performed in about an hour in a doctor’s office, and require very little down time.
Here are the most common advanced procedures that Evansville Surgical Associates’ Board Certified Vascular Surgeons offer:
Endovenous Laser Treatment (EVLT)
EVLT uses ultrasound and lasers to eliminate diseased varicose veins. While viewing the vein on high-resolution ultrasound, a physician inserts a thin optic-fiber laser fiber through a small incision in the skin into the vein. A concentrated beam of laser energy then closes off the abnormal vein so that blood naturally reroutes through other, healthier veins. EVLT is done in the doctor’s office with only local anesthesia.
Radiofrequency Ablation (RFA)
Radiofrequency ablation is another minimally-invasive treatment that’s often used to close varicose veins. Rather than using laser energy, the technique uses radiofrequency energy to heat up the wall of the vein. The heat causes scar tissue to form, which closes off the varicose vein. Like EVLT, a small incision allows for a thin tube, or catheter, to direct the treatment into the vein. RFA can be used to treat large veins in the leg and can also be done in an office setting with just local anesthesia.
Microphlebectomy, or Ambulatory Phlebectomy
A microphlebectomy, also called an ambulatory phlebectomy, is an effective procedure for larger, visibly bulging veins that are typically too twisted for an EVLT or RFA tube to pass through. During a microphlebectomy, the diseased vein is removed in sections with a small hook-like tool that’s inserted into the diseased vein through tiny pinholes in the skin.
Even though the vein is being removed, the procedure is vastly different from vein stripping because the incisions are tiny and no general anesthesia is required. Like EVLT and RFA, a microphlebectomy does not require the use of a scalpel or stitches and only local anesthesia is needed.
Ultrasound-guided Foam Sclerotherapy
During sclerotherapy, a concentrated foam solution is injected into the diseased vein to close it and eliminate uncomfortable symptoms. The foam is very effective in eradicating more hidden sources of vein disease, and it can also treat large areas of veins in the least amount of time.
Ultrasound-guided foam sclerotherapy is often used in conjunction with EVLT, RFA, or a microphlebectomy to both relieve symptoms from unseen varicose veins as well as to reduce the recurrence of visible varicose veins.
No Scalpels, No Stitches
These minimally-invasive advanced treatments are clinically proven to safely treat varicose veins as an effective alternative to surgical vein stripping. Each of these treatments require no scalpels or stitches, no sedation, no hospitalization, and involve very little to no pain. Plus, if treatment of your varicose veins is considered medically necessary—as it often is—then the procedures are typically covered by insurance.
Not only do patients’ legs look better, but they are finally free from the persistent symptoms of swelling, aching, pain, or heaviness.
Once patients like Mary hear the good news about today’s varicose vein treatments, they often say, “I wish I hadn’t put treatment off for so long!”
Varicose veins are a progressive and chronic condition, so it’s wise to seek advice before symptoms take a toll on your health or quality of life. At Evansville Surgical Associates, our board certified vascular surgeons offer a full range of varicose vein treatments, including EVLT, microphlebectomies, sclerotherapy, and open surgery when needed.
We specialize in the comprehensive treatment of vascular diseases like varicose veins at any stage—from preventative care and education, to screenings and diagnosis, to treatment procedures—so that you can enjoy optimal health and maintain an active lifestyle.
Our registered vascular technologists have nearly 34 years of combined experience and are registered in vascular technology by the American Registry of Diagnostic Medical Sonographers (ARDMS).
Established in 1969, Evansville Surgical Associates celebrates 50 years of providing leading-edge comprehensive and compassionate surgical care. Learn more about our physicians and our practices by visiting our website, or by calling us at 812.424.8231 or 800.264.8231.