Vein ablation: a solution for unsightly varicose veins
Varicose veins can develop
when veins have damaged or weak walls or valves. Usually occurring in the legs
just under the skin, varicose veins appear twisted or swollen and can cause
discomfort. Vein ablation is a minimally invasive treatment for varicose veins.
Veins contain one-way valves that regulate blood flow to the
heart. When these valves don't work properly or the vein walls are weak, blood
can pool and sometimes flow backward. This can lead to veins becoming large and
Veins can become damaged when blood pressure is too high.
Several factors can lead to varicose veins:
- Being overweight
- Lack of physical activity
- Sitting or standing for long periods on a regular basis
Varicose veins can also run in families.
ablation, or endovenous ablation, is
an option for many patients with varicose veins. Symptoms of varicose veins
- Achiness in the legs
- A heavy feeling in the legs and feet
- Bluish, bulging veins
- Changes in skin color around the veins
- Itching or burning around the affected veins
- Leg cramps at night
- Swelling in the legs
these symptoms can cause you to change your daily activities. That's because
discomfort can get worse from either sitting or being on your feet for long
periods, but it gets better when you put your feet up or lie down. Getting
treatment as early as possible can prevent varicose veins from getting worse or
developing complications, such as bleeding and sores.
provider might do a duplex ultrasound (DUS) to help diagnose varicose veins.
This noninvasive imaging test uses sound waves to evaluate how well blood is
flowing through your veins.
catheters don't travel easily through blood vessels with many twists and turns,
so the procedure is usually performed on the veins supplying varicose veins
with blood. These include the great saphenous vein extending from the groin to
the ankle as well as other saphenous veins.
ablation uses laser or radiofrequency energy to cauterize, or burn, abnormal
veins. This closes the vein and causes it to shrink, and the blood circulates
through other healthier veins. The procedure, which is most often performed on
an outpatient basis, improves venous circulation and improves symptoms.
vein ablation, your provider might spread a numbing cream over the varicose
veins to reduce pain. After sterilizing the area, the provider makes a very
small incision in the skin and inserts a thin tube called a catheter. Using
ultrasound guidance, your provider places the catheter in the faulty vein and injects
the vein with a local anesthetic, causing it to collapse. Next, a
radiofrequency electrode inserted through the catheter delivers heat to the
vein. This procedure to treat varicose veins usually takes an hour or less.
feel slight pokes and some pressure when the catheter is inserted, but you
shouldn't experience significant pain or discomfort. After an ablation, you'll
need to wear a compression stocking, which reduces side effects such as
bruising and tenderness. It also lowers the risk of blood clots, which is a
one week of the procedure, the treated vein should successfully close. Your
provider will likely order a follow-up ultrasound to ensure the ablation was
Most patients can return to their normal activities
immediately following the procedure. The only exceptions are air travel or
other activities that involve prolonged sitting, such as long car trips. Your
provider will also encourage you to stay active while avoiding strenuous
activity for a period.
In some cases, ablation procedures successfully treat the
varicose vein, but smaller surrounding veins require additional treatments,
- Phlebectomy to remove smaller varicose veins just under the skin
- Sclerotherapy, which seals off varicose veins using liquid or foam chemicals
What are the benefits of vein ablation?
Vein ablation offers many benefits over surgical vein
- A lower risk of
- Less pain and much easier recovery
- No scars due to very small incisions
In addition, treated veins are usually effectively invisible by ultrasound within 12 months of the procedure.