July 2012 - Varicose Veins

It’s great to move into a summer wardrobe as the weather gets warmer but for those with varicose veins, the idea of putting on a dress, skirt or shorts holds much less appeal.

Unfortunately varicose veins don’t just look unpleasant, they also create significant discomfort for sufferers and really interfere with day-to-day life.

Here one of our foremost vascular surgeons, Mr Patrick Cullen explains about the condition and VNUS ClosureFast™ (also known as radiofrequency ablation) – one of the newer treatments offered here at Spire Washington Hospital. I’m glad to say it is much less invasive than surgery and greatly speeds the recovery process. I’ll let Patrick explain:

“Varicose veins are one of those things that most people will have heard of, especially as they run in families, but often they know very little about them. This is a common condition affecting up to 3 adults in ten (women more commonly) and patients generally fall into the 30-50 age bracket. Any vein can be affected but we see it the most in the legs and feet.

“Essentially what happens is that the small valves that aid the blood flow within veins become either damaged or stop working. This creates a reflux (bounce back) causing blood to travel away from the heart rather than towards it. The blood starts to gather and bulge and the veins become varicose, which put simply means swollen and enlarged.

“Varicose veins are usually bluey-purpley in colour and lumpy so it can be easy to assume that sufferers want to have them treated purely for cosmetic reasons but this is actually far from the truth. The patients we see complain of discomfort particularly when standing for long periods of time and overnight (lying down exacerbates rather than alleviates the problem) and the pain stops them doing things they would like to. Cramping and aching makes daily life miserable.

“By the time the patient comes to Spire Washington Hospital, it’s likely they will have been to see their GP and may have even worn support stockings for a period of time. These however only have limited success and don’t suit everyone because of the way they feel and look.

“During the first appointment a discussion will be had as to the person’s general symptoms and health. We also examine the veins to understand where the problem is stemming from. Clinical tests are carried out with a tourniquet and doppler and the patient has choice of whether the procedure will be carried out under local or general anaesthetic – the decision is based on the cause and complexity of the varicose veins.

“Whereas previously the patient would only have had the option of general surgery to remove the veins through a vein stripping procedure, as Silvie mentioned we now offer VNUS, a minimally invasive alternative that is carried out as a day case.

“With surgery, incisions are made in the skin so a wire can be inserted to remove the faulty veins. VNUS instead inserts a catheter that uses heat to close the damaged veins, at which point blood naturally reroutes to the healthy ones. The whole procedure takes only 20-45 minutes and bruising and discomfort is much reduced – there is also less scarring.

“Afterwards the patient is discharged with a support stocking and asked to return for a follow up appointment about ten days later. The recovery is so quick however, they are likely to have been back to work within the week, which would not be the case with surgery. You can see why VNUS is growing in popularity as the benefits are significantly greater.”

Mr Cullen is right to say that VNUS is becoming the preferred option and with the results it offers, it is easy to see why. If you would like to find out more, there is lots of information on our website and if you’d like to book in for the procedure, all you have to do is ask your GP for a referral.

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