Varicose Vein Treatments: Then & Now

Varicose veins are a chronic medical condition that causes discomfort, pain and frustration for all of its sufferers. While most of the varicose vein sufferers are women primarily due to hormones, signs of varicose veins can develop at any time for both men as well as women. A recent survey online states that more than 20% of adults in western countries have venous insufficiency, also known as varicose veins. More specifically, more than 40% of women and more than 25% of men suffer from varicose veins in their legs & feet. Refusing to live their lives shopping for compression socks from the corner pharmacy store, those with venous insufficiency seek out treatments and vein doctors to end this ongoing discomfort. Aside from the obvious cosmetic concerns, those individuals with varicose veins must decide on seeking medical treatment to alleviate the symptoms. If left untreated, varicose veins can be the cause behind numerous health problems such as venous eczema, skin discoloration and venous stasis ulcers. Patients can only arrive on that conclusion after consulting with a vein doctor or "phlebologist" whose expertise they trust.

Vein Stripping Surgery No Longer Fits the Bill

Doctors specializing in the diagnosis and treatment of vein-related disorders are increasingly recommending non-invasive evaluation through ultrasound machines to detect, diagnose and map out the varicose veins. Following the diagnostic ultrasound, a vein specialist can refer to their findings to suggest the best course of treatment for their patient.

Advances in medical research and techniques have led to a decline in doctors recommending vein stripping as a treatment for varicose veins. Vein stripping surgery was a surgical procedure to ‘strip’ or remove visible veins via minor incisions to skin’s surface. Patients had to undergo general anesthesia and incurred a 2 to 4 week recovery time from surgery.

Another outdated medical procedure, similar to vein stripping, is vein ligation where the surgeon cuts off and ties the varicose vein. Patients are strongly recommended to explore other surgical procedures since vein ligation and vein stripping have both been deemed ineffective and outdated in recent medical surveys.

Going Past Vein Stripping for Optimum Treatment

Vein stripping and vein ligation are no longer the only medical treatments available to provide relief to varicose vein sufferers. Recently conducted medical studies guide varicose vein patients to first seek out minimally-invasive therapies before resorting to traditional vein stripping surgery.
Endovenous Laser Ablation (EVLA) and Mechanochemical ablation (Clarivein®) are state-of-the-art non-surgical procedures that are replacing vein stripping surgery with more than 95% effectiveness. During an Endovenous Laser Ablation (EVLA) treatment, the physician will utilize thermal energy to close off the varicose vein. Doctors need to apply only local anesthesia to numb the area surrounding the vein and are both outpatient procedures. The Endovenous Laser Ablation (EVLA) procedure requires the physician to guide a laser inside the varicose vein while using the ultrasound machine to determine the laser placement. The varicose vein will fade away under the laser light without the need for any surgery. Vein specialists recommend EVLA or Mechanochemical ablation (Clarivein®) for most varicose vein patients, even for those who are overweight. The fact that EVLA and Clarivein are outpatient procedures means that overweight patients avoid the associated risks and complications of going under general anesthesia.

The VenaSeal™ Closure System is another cutting-edge, minimally-invasive medical procedure to treat sufferers of varicose veins without the need for post-procedure compression stockings. Typically, after the EVLA and Clarivein, patients must wear compression stockings for up to two weeks to ensure closure of the vein. Thankfully, this is no longer needed with the VenaSeal treatment. The VenaSeal Closure System is a treatment to permanently close affected varicose veins in the leg area with a non-toxic, FDA-approved surgical-grade adhesive. Like the other non-surgical vein ablation procedures, the VenaSeal procedure allows patients to immediately resume their daily activities after treatment.

Following the removal of the larger bulging varicose veins, doctors may recommend sclerotherapy to remove surface-level spider veins. Sometimes, varicose vein treatments assist in the elimination of spider veins because when the faulty veins are treated, the blood is no longer flowing backward within the leg. This enables the pressure within the leg to be decreased, and the spider veins to fade away.

varicose vein treatment options
Comparing treatment options for varicose veins

Reasons to Choose an Interventional Radiologist

Interventional Radiologists are medical doctors who specialize in minimally invasive procedures using ultrasound guidance. The varicose vein treatments used today have been pioneered by this specialty to offer patients a non-surgical alternative for varicose vein treatment. Using guidewires and catheters under ultrasound guidance, Interventional Radiologists are taking procedures out of the operating room, and into an outpatient setting.

When sitting in the vein center, the patient must ensure that the physician personally performs all of the ultrasounds before and during your treatments, and not an ultrasound technician. Interventional Radiologists rely on their own training and experience to accurately determine the underlying cause of symptoms, and treat them with familiarity and expertise. An ultrasound technologist does not have this training, or diagnostic ability.

Varicose or spider vein patients should seek out board-certified vascular specialists at a vein center, like qualified Interventional Radiologists, to perform the appropriate diagnostic ultrasound and suggest the best-possible treatments for your specific anatomy.


Related Articles