What are varicose veins?

Varicose veins are enlarged and twisted veins in the leg. They tend to run in families and are made worse by pregnancy and if you do a lot of standing.

Veins in your legs contain many one-way valves to help the upward flow of blood back to your heart. If the valves fail to work properly, blood can flow in the wrong direction causing varicose veins (see figure 1).

What are the benefits of surgery?

Your symptoms should improve. EVA should help prevent the symptoms and complications that varicose veins cause.

Are there any alternatives to EVA?

Support stockings can often help the symptoms caused by varicose veins.

Foam sclerotherapy is a similar technique that uses an injection of chemicals to treat the veins.

Varicose veins surgery involves disconnecting and removing the superficial veins from the deep veins, using a cut on your groin or the back of your knee.

What does the operation involve?

The operation is performed under a general anaesthetic, local anaesthetic or spinal anaesthetic. The operation usually takes about 45 minutes.

• Laser ablation

Your surgeon will insert a catheter (tube) into the great or small saphenous vein. They will pass a laser fibre through the catheter and up to where the saphenous and deep veins meet. Your surgeon will use laser energy to cause the saphenous vein to close.

• Radio-frequency ablation

Your surgeon will insert a radio-frequency ablation catheter into the great or small saphenous vein. They will use radio-frequency energy to cause the saphenous vein to close.

What complications can happen?

1 General complications of any operation

  • Pain
  • Bleeding
  • Infection of the surgical site (wound)
  • Unsightly scarring
  • Blood clots

2 Specific complications of this operation

  • Superficial thrombophlebitis
  • Developing a lump under a wound
  • Numbness or a tingling sensation
  • Burns to your skin
  • Ablation device cracking or breaking
  • Damage to nerves
  • Damage to arteries
  • Continued varicose veins

How soon will I recover?

You should be able to go home the same day.

You may need to wear support stockings.

Try to return to normal activities as soon as possible, unless you are told otherwise.

Regular exercise should help you to return to normal activities as soon as possible. Before you start exercising, ask the healthcare team or your GP for advice.

Most people make a full recovery. Varicose veins can come back.

Summary

Varicose veins are a common problem and can lead to complications if left untreated. Support stockings can help to control symptoms but will not remove the varicose veins.

Acknowledgements

Author: Mr Bruce Braithwaite MChir FRCS

Illustrations: Medical Illustration Copyright © Nucleus Medical Art. All rights reserved. www.nucleusinc.com

 

This document is intended for information purposes only and should not replace advice that your relevant health professional would give you.

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