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Varicose Vein Surgery

Alternate Names

  • treatment for varicose veins
  • vein ligation and stripping
  • Circulatory System

Definition

Varicose veins are enlarged, dilated veins, most commonly located in the legs. There are several ways to remove or treat these damaged veins.

Who is a candidate for the procedure?

Surgery can be done for most people who want to have varicose veins removed. Surgery is usually advised if symptoms are severe and fail to respond to other therapy. Many people have surgery because they dislike the way the veins look.

How is the procedure performed?

There are a number of ways to remove or treat varicose veins. The procedure used depends on their location and severity as well as the preference of the healthcare professional.
The procedure may be done with local or general anesthesia. Local anesthesia means that numbing medication is injected under the skin where the cuts will be made. General anesthesia means the person is put to sleep with medications, feels no pain, and has no awareness of the procedure.
Procedures used to treat varicose veins include:
  • surgical ligation and stripping, which is often used for more severe varicose veins. Certain veins in the leg are tied off, which is called ligation. A small stitch is tied around a vein to block blood flow through it.
Stripping is a technique to remove a long portion of a vein using only two small skin cuts. First, a small cut is made at the bottom of the vein. A thin metal instrument is placed into the vein through the cut after it is tied off. The instrument is passed up through the vein. A small skin cut is then made at the top and the device is removed through it. The entire length of vein is pulled out with the device.
  • phlebectomy, or removal of the vein through cuts in the skin. Phlebectomy is similar to ligation and stripping, except that smaller pieces of vein are removed with a small surgical hook.

  • sclerotherapy, which permanently closes or collapses the veins with chemicals. Certain irritating chemicals can be injected directly into the varicose veins. This damages the veins and causes them to permanently collapse. This is often performed for the small unsightly veins in the calf—commonly called spider veins.
  • electrodessication, which is the use of electrical current to permanently seal varicose veins
  • lasertherapy and intense pulsed light therapy, which use laser beams or high intensity light to destroy varicose veins

Sources

Vascular Surgery: Principles and Practice, 1994, Veith et al.

American Academy of Dermatology website. [hyperLink url="http://www.aad.org/" linkTitle="www.aad.org"]www.aad.org[/hyperLink]

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