At Spire Hartswood Hospital, Brentwood, we offer a treatment called Venefit™, which can provide a solution to painful and unsightly varicose veins.
Venefit™ (formerly known as VNUS Closure™) is a minimally invasive treatment for superficial venous reflux - where valves in the veins closest to the surface of the skin become damaged, allowing blood to pool or flow backwards. A heated probe attached to a generator is used to close the faulty vein, redirecting blood through nearby healthy veins.
Venous reflux is a progressive disease and symptoms can worsen over time if left untreated. Common symptoms include pain, swelling, leg heaviness and fatigue, as well as visible varicose veins in the legs.
What happens during the treatment?
An ultrasound scan will be done on your leg to mark the position of the veins. A local anaesthetic injection will numb your skin and a small flexible guide wire will be passed into the vein. A fine sheath is passed over this wire and then the catheter is threaded through the sheath. The position of the catheter will be confirmed by ultrasound.
The generator then creates radiofrequency energy (heat) to seal the vein along the length being treated in just a few minutes. You should not feel anything during the treatment. Once the vein has been closed up, the probe is removed and a bandage is applied to the leg(s).
How long does the procedure take?
The VNUS procedure takes approximately 45 - 60 minutes, though patients normally spend 2 - 3 hours at the hospital due to normal pre and post-treatment procedures.
What is the recovery period like?
The bandage that is applied immediately after Venefit™ treatment should be kept on day and night for 1 week. After this, a support stocking should be worn during the day only, and removed during bathing and at bedtime.
Normal activities, including work (if not strenuous), can be resumed as soon as you like. However, contact sports, heavy exercise and swimming should be avoided for up to 2 weeks. After a week the bandage is removed you may see minimal bruising or hardness under the skin. This is quite normal and will settle down gradually. Patients are advised to refrain from very strenuous activities (e.g. heavy lifting) or prolonged periods of standing.
Most patients report a noticeable improvement in their symptoms within 1 - 2 weeks following the procedure. >If any small varicose veins remain, these can be removed by an injection given in outpatients.
What are the advantages of Venefit™?
Venefit™ is performed as a day case procedure under local anaesthetic. Patients report feeling little, if any, pain. Local or regional anaesthetic can be used to numb the treatment area.
As well as a quick return to normal activities, Venefit™ requires fewer incisions to the skin, so leaves fewer scars and less potential for complications such as wound infection or pain following surgery.
Approximately 5% of patients who have conventional vein stripping surgery are left with patches of numbness on the leg. This occurs even less with Venefit™.
Are there any potential complications?
There is a small chance of around 3% that the vein may not be fully obliterated (closed) by the procedure. If this happens, the treatment can always be repeated, or the veins can be treated by conventional surgery or by liquid injection.
There may be a few visible varicose veins left after the Venefit™treatment, but these do not cause symptoms and become less prominent with time. Most people do not require additional injections for residual veins.
About 1% of patients experience some numbness in the leg following the VNUS procedure, but this is almost always temporary.
As with any surgical procedure, there is a small risk of blood clots forming in the main leg veins (DVT), although this is probably less common after Venefit™ than conventional vein surgery.
Patients are not advised to undertake long haul air travel within 3 weeks of the procedure. Short flights may be acceptable, but this must be discussed with Mr Jacob before undergoing treatment.
How do the results of Venefit™compare with traditional ‘vein stripping’ treatment?
Three randomized trials of Venefit™ (formerly known as VNUS Closure™) versus vein stripping showed very similar results, with the closure procedure being superior to vein stripping in every statistically significant outcome. In one study, 80.5% of patients treated with the VNUS procedure returned to normal activities within 1 day, versus 46.9% of patients who underwent vein stripping. Also, VNUS patients returned to work 7.7 days sooner than surgical patients*.
Patients treated with the VNUS procedure had less post-operative pain, less bruising, faster recovery and fewer overall adverse events.
* Figures courtesy of www.vnus.com/uk
How do I know if Venefit™ is suitable for me?
The most important step in determining whether or not the closure procedure is appropriate is a complete ultrasound examination. Age alone is not a factor. The procedure has been used to treat patients across a wide range of ages. It is particularly beneficial in the elderly as it can be safely performed under local anaesthetic thereby avoiding the potential risks of a general anaesthetic in this group of patients.