Mention varicose veins and the picture that comes to mind is one of bulging, unsightly blood vessels in the legs. If you’re one of the 25 million people in the United States suffering from this condition, you know that varicose veins are more than a cosmetic problem. Varicose veins are just one result of malfunctioning veins or what is clinically known as venous insufficiency.
Legs that ache, tire easily, feel heavy, and cramp; skin changes and difficult-to-treat wounds - the symptoms of varicose veins are felt as well as seen and may worsen as the day progresses. You may need to sit and elevate your legs to get relief from the pressure.
Today, an interventional radiology treatment is closing off these painful veins with a simple outpatient procedure. Patient satisfaction is high because symptoms quickly improve. And it’s a very simple procedure to do with very low risk.
The Diagnosis and Treatment
Varicose veins result from a malfunction of valves in the leg veins that keep blood flowing up to the heart against gravity. When the valves fail to close properly, the blood flows backward and pools in the veins, causing them to become elongated, rope-like, and thickened.
If you have symptomatic varicose veins, your physician will use ultrasound to check the anatomy of your veins, the vein valve function, and blood flow to diagnose venous insufficiency.
Traditional treatments have included vein stripping surgery or, in smaller veins, injections of a salt solution. Other conservative treatments included compression stockings, nonsteroidal medications, and leg elevations.
Now, interventional radiology seals off the enlarged veins without surgery. In the Closure Procedure, a physician guides a probe through a tiny catheter into the vein and then transmits radio frequency energy through the probe to heat the vein and close it. In addition to radio frequency energy, this procedure can also be performed with a laser fiber, which has been found to be equally as effective in studies.
This minimally invasive alternative to painful vein stripping surgery is performed under local anesthesia using ultrasound guidance. Patients leave the hospital within hours of the procedure, and 80 percent resume normal activities within 24 hours.
After the procedure, the varicosed veins near the skin surface shrink and improve in appearance. Other healthy veins take over to carry blood from the leg.
There is no incision, no real scarring, patients walk immediately after the procedure, and most patients report an improvement in leg pain, swelling, and fatigue within one to two weeks following the procedure. According to published data, 92 percent of veins treated with the Closure Procedure, developed by VNUS Medical Technologies, remained reflux-free after five years with a significant reduction of leg pain, fatigue and edema.
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