Varicose Veins

Varicose veins are tortuous veins that are usually blue or purple in colour. They are most commonly seen on legs. Apart from causing general discomfort, varicose veins may also lead to swollen ankles and painful muscle cramps.

Varicose veins develop when the valves in superficial veins stop working. In a healthy vein, the backward flow of blood is prevented by a number of valves that open and close at intervals down the leg. When these valves stop functioning properly, blood gets caught up in the veins, resulting in swollen varicose veins.

Although varicose veins do not particularly result in any serious health hazard, they do impart an unpleasant appearance to the area it develops in. They can also develop in to more serious conditions such as venous excema, skin changes and in some cases venous leg ulcers. There are a number of different ways to treat varicose veins, of which are the endovenous radiofrequency, endovenous laser, foam sclerotherapy and open surgery:

Radiofrequency Ablation

This minimally invasive treatment utilizes radiofrequency energy to provide an even and uniform heat to contract the collagen in the vein walls, causing them to collapse and seal. Once the vein has been closed, blood flow is redirected, and will track up the healthy veins that are in the leg.

The hollow tube (catheter) is inserted into the vein through a tiny incision below the knee. Guided by ultrasound imaging, the physician treats a 7 cm segment of vein with a 20-second burst of radiofrequency energy, causing the vessel to shrink around the catheter. The physician withdraws the catheter, treating each segment until the entire length of the vein has been sealed. An average 45 cm length vein can be treated in this manner in just three to five minutes. The procedure is performed under local anaesthetic so you will be able to get back to your normal activities the same day with no impact on your daily activities.

Foam Sclerotherapy

Sclerotherapy or injection of varicose veins is a procedure designed to improve the appearance of your varicose veins. The veins are injected with a solution called a sclerosant which damages the internal lining of the vein and causes blood clotting within the vein. In time, your own body will then destroy the vein and it will disappear.

Foam sclerotherapy involves making small volumes of the liquid solution into foam by rapid mixing and agitation with a small volume of air. This can then be used to treat some of the larger underlying abnormal veins.

Sclerotherapy will be performed on an outpatient basis with you being able to return to your every day activities the next day. You will have a number of injections where the surgeon will identify the particular veins and will inject the foam. This will all be performed under ultrasound guidance control. The procedure should take around 30 minutes in total although you may need more than one visit to treat all of the veins in question.

Conventional Surgery

If your veins are not suitable for either Radiofrequency or Foam Sclerotherapy, you will then be offered Conventional Surgery. This involves making an incision around your groin and locating the diseased vein. The vein is then tied off and a wire is inserted down the vein and pushed down the vein where another small incision is made, usually around the knee or the ankle. The thin wire will then be carefully pulled out with the vein being removed at the same time. The blood will then track up the healthy veins.

After the procedure, you may need 1-2 weeks to recover fully although that may be down to the occupation that you do. In addition, you may need to wear compression stockings for a week also.


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