Venous Diseases: How to Treat Varicose Veins and Ablation

Varicose veins aren’t just an eyesore. They can also be symptomatic of more serious forms of Venous Disease such as chronic venous insufficiency. Even when patients’ conditions are not advanced, they often experience symptoms like aching, throbbing, fatigue, tenderness, and swelling as a result of their varicose veins.

What Are Varicose Veins?

Varicose veins form when the blood vessels responsible for bringing oxygen-depleted blood back to the heart experience a weakening of their walls. When this happens, the veins become enlarged and discolored, often blue or purplish. They appear most frequently on the back or sides of the calf, where the circulatory system is under more pressure due to gravity and distance from the heart.

Unless they are treated, varicose veins are permanent. They’re also extremely common. Over 23% of American adults suffer from varicose veins, and more than 80% of men and 85% of women have related conditions known as telangiectasias and reticular veins. Millions of Americans who suffer from varicose veins also go on to develop more serious venous diseases.

Ablation Treatment for Varicose Veins

There are many treatments available for varicose veins. They range in invasiveness from medical therapies and compression stockings to surgical correction. The most common form of treatment offered in Rock Hill, SC, is known as venous or endovenous ablation.

Ablation is a minimally invasive treatment that can be used to treat both the cosmetic and medical problems associated with varicose veins and chronic venous insufficiency. Endovenous ablation involves inserting a thin catheter into the saphenous vein, the primary superficial vein associated with varicose veins, then using either radiofrequency (RF) or laser technology to damage the vein’s wall, causing it to close.

What Is Radiofrequency Ablation?

RF ablation therapy involves applying radiofrequency energy to the veins through the pre-inserted catheter. Radiologists will use RF tools to accomplish this goal by transmitting high levels of radio wave energy through small areas of tissue—in this case, the walls of the veins. The veins absorb the energy and convert it into heat that destroys the cells, which are then converted to scar tissue and reabsorbed by the body.

What Is Laser Ablation?

Laser ablation is similar to RF ablation except that, instead of using RF waves, radiologists deliver energy to the tissue using catheter tools with laser-fiber tips.

Closing the saphenous vein typically causes other visible varicose veins to regress. This allows doctors to treat large areas of varicose veins more easily. If the veins do not regress, additional forms of ablation therapy, such as sclerotherapy or open phlebectomy, may be required.

What Is Sclerotherapy?

Sclerotherapy is similar to other forms of endovenous ablation in that it involves directing a thin catheter into the vein and creating conditions that cause the vein to close and form scar tissue. Instead of RF tools or lasers, radiologists use chemical scarring agents like alcohol to close the veins. Once they have closed and turned into scar tissue, the body will absorb it over time and the problem will be alleviated.

What Is Open Phlebectomy?

An open phlebectomy is a minimally invasive outpatient procedure designed to remove smaller surface varicose veins. During this procedure, the healthcare provider will use a needle to puncture the skin next to the vein. He or she will then insert a small hook into the hole and remove the vein by hand.

What to Expect During Venous Ablation

The process of treating varicose veins begins with an initial consultation to determine whether the patient is a good candidate for venous ablation. If a doctor determines a treatment approach is appropriate, the patient will be scheduled for an outpatient intervention. Before the procedure, the patient will receive a local anesthetic and moderate sedation.

During the procedure, a radiologist will use ultrasound technology to visualize the vein and guide a tiny catheter into it. He or she will then apply the RT, laser, or chemical therapy to seal the vein. The entire procedure should take around an hour.

What to Expect After Venous Ablation

Once the vein has been closed, the body will begin to reabsorb the tissue almost immediately. Other nearby veins will take over the important work of moving blood from the legs back to the heart, and the patient will begin to notice relief from his or her symptoms almost immediately.

Patients treated with venous ablation must keep their legs wrapped for 24 hours to aid in the healing process They can expect to return to normal activities within one to two days but will have to avoid long periods of bed rest, sitting in the same position, and lifting heavy objects. Doctors also recommend wearing compression stockings following ablation interventions to prevent blood clots and reduce bruising and tenderness in the treated area.

Patients’ satisfaction rates following venous ablation are quite high. The procedure is effective in well over 90% of cases, and those who still have smaller surface veins to contend with can have them removed following the ablation. Patient satisfaction rates vary from 84.8% for endovenous laser ablation to 88.7% for RF ablation.

Surgical Alternative

It used to be the case that patients with varicose veins had little choice but to undergo a traditional surgery referred to as “vein stripping.” This procedure involved making large skin incisions to facilitate the removal of the entire saphenous vein. Patients who underwent this procedure experienced more complications and took longer to heal, so most experts no longer recommend vein stripping as a means of treating varicose veins except in the most serious cases.

Get Help Now

Sick of dealing with unsightly, uncomfortable, and painful varicose veins and want to take action? It’s time to investigate Carolina heart specialists who can help. Carolina Cardiology Associates provides a full range of varicose vein treatment modalities, from improving blood flow with compression stockings and targeted medications to RF ablation, sclerotherapy and, when necessary, surgical interventions for patients who don’t respond to other treatments. Call the clinic at (803) 324-5135 or fill out a contact form online to get in touch and schedule a consultation.

The experienced physicians at Carolina Cardiology Associates are committed to the health of every patient who walks through our doors. We understand the challenges of cardiovascular disease and will work with you to provide treatment, education, and a plan for the future to help you live your healthiest life.