What are varicose veins?
Varicose veins are caused by blood collecting in superficial veins which lie just beneath the skin, often in the legs. These veins have a series of valves which help blood back towards the heart, but in some cases the valves become weakened or damaged and no longer close properly.
When this occurs, blood is able to flow backwards; collecting in the vein. This becomes visible on the surface of the skin as a varicose vein. A varicose vein often appears engorged or twisted, and can be a blue or dark purple colour on the skin. Varicose veins do not tend to get better without treatment, and usually get worse with time.
Ultrasound guided foam sclerotherapy offers a new alternative to surgery in treating varicose veins. The procedure is carried out in less than one hour under local anaesthetic in the outpatient department.
To find out more about varicose vein treatment at
Spire Sussex Hospital, call us on 01424 757455
How is this treatment given?
Foam sclerotherapy is performed lying on a couch in the outpatient consulting room with the help of local anaesthetic injections. The aim is to inject and destroy the main surface vein, which is causing the varicose veins. Several needles are placed into the affected veins guided by ultrasound imaging. The leg being treated is elevated to empty all the surface veins.
The foam is prepared and injected into the vein. The foam rapidly spreads along the vein and is guided by ultrasound. Injection of foam continues as the foam spreads into the varicose veins. Several injections of foam may be needed. Additional injections can be given during follow-up visits to treat any veins that the foam has not reached initially.
What does the injection feel like?
There is often very little sensation or sometimes minor discomfort.
Following foam injections, we apply a firm bandage and compression stocking to the leg. The bandage can be removed after seven to ten days. A strong elastic stocking should be worn continuously until your next appointment (usually about a fortnight).
After treatment, carry on with your usual activities. Avoid vigorous exercise, gentle walking is best. When resting, raise your leg above hip height (avoid standing still or sitting with legs down for long periods if possible). A modest ache in the leg should respond to simple painkillers. You may drive, provided you are confident of performing an emergency stop.
Advantages of foam sclerotherapy
- Avoids the need for hospital admission, surgery and general anaesthesia
- Results in minor discomfort during treatment and only minimal bruising compared with other surgery
- All treatment is performed as an outpatient and little or no time is required off work
- Less expensive than varicose vein surgery
Disadvantages of foam sclerotherapy
- Usually only one leg is treated per appointment (with surgery both legs may be treated simultaneously)
- More clinic attendances are required than for surgical treatment (usually three to four appointments if both legs are treated)
- A few months are required for final outcome to be obtained with resolution of all bruising and uncomfortable lumpiness
- Brown skin staining can take a long time to fade, occasionally still being present for more than a year (surgery can also cause this, although less often than sclerotherapy)
- Thread veins may develop in the region of treatment in susceptible people, which may be treated by microsclerotherapy if necessary. (They may also appear following surgical treatment for varicose veins.)
Your colour duplex ultrasound scan will also help guide your surgeon in the choice of treatment – some veins are more suited to this treatment than others.