At Advanced Vein & Vascular Center, we have a lot of patients ask us what vein stripping is. Just saying the words “vein stripping” evokes a cringe response in most people, and rightfully so. Traditional vein stripping is invasive and painful, can leave significant bruising and scarring, and involves a long and often painful recovery period.
How is Vein Stripping Performed?
Traditional vein stripping is a surgical process that requires general anesthesia and is usually performed in a hospital. Two or three incisions are made along the affected vein, from the groin to below the knee. The top of the vein is cut and clamped off. A thin wire “stripper” is threaded down through the vein, removing the vein by either collecting it in an umbrella-shaped head or fastening the vein to the wire and pulling it along as the wire travels down the leg.
Once the wire reaches the lower incision, the vein is pulled out and removed from the body, with stitches required at all incision points. The cons far outweigh the pros when considering traditional vein stripping. Recovery time is long, requiring patients to miss three or more weeks of work. Patients usually experience significant pain following the procedure. Also, there can be significant side effects such as bleeding, bruising, infection and scarring.
In the past, vein stripping was the standard of care for the treatment of vein problems. Some doctors who aren’t well-versed in venous health developments still perform such invasive surgery, even though improved technologies exist. Fortunately, Advanced Vein & Vascular Center offers new technologies that are much less invasive, more effective, and produce better results in the treatment of varicose and spider veins.
Ambulatory phlebectomy—or hook phlebectomy—is the surgical removal of all or a portion of a vein with a hook device. It can be used to remove both large and small varicose veins. A tiny incision, approximately one millimeter in length, is made in the leg. A piece of the vein is hooked and removed through the small incision. Because a micro-incision is used, no stitches are necessary. Only a compression bandage needs to be worn afterward, as it will provide comfort and support, minimize swelling and promote healing.
Endovenous Laser Therapy (EVLT)
Endovenous laser therapy (EVLT) is an exciting new alternative to vein stripping. A micro-incision is made in the leg and the laser is inserted into the vein. Ultrasound technology is used to guide the laser to the precise problem within the vein, and laser energy pulses close the vein. That’s it—simple, easy and effective. The benefits of EVLT are superior to older vein stripping methods because EVLT is minimally invasive, doesn’t require stitches, doesn’t scar, is performed in the office under local anesthesia, and patients are free to return to their busy lives the very next day. EVLT can be used in conjunction with other vein treatments to optimize the removal of varicose veins.
Laser Vein Treatment
Laser vein treatment is an effective remedy for spider veins that are too small for other treatments (usually less than three millimeters). There are no incisions or needles, only local anesthesia is used, the treatment takes less than 20 minutes and there is no downtime or recovery time for most patients. Using a laser allows the doctor to precisely isolate the affected vein without causing any damage to the surrounding healthy tissue. To treat the vein, the laser is positioned over the affected vein. The heat from the laser injures the walls of the vein, causing the vein to shrink. Over the next month, the body will reabsorb the treated vein and it will disappear. Laser surgery often requires two to five treatments for optimal removal of spider veins.
Sclerotherapy treats both spider and varicose veins with the use of a sclerosant. The sclerosant is a special chemical solution that is administered via a series of small injections along the affected vein. It causes the walls of the vein to collapse, thus destroying the vein. Eventually, the treated vein will be absorbed by the body. Because the injection needles are tiny, there are no incisions or stitches. Immediately following the procedure, you will need to elevate your feet for a few hours. Most patients return to their normal activities the day after sclerotherapy. Depending on the severity of your varicose or spider veins, three to six repeat treatments may be necessary to effectively remove them.
Veinwave is a new and effective treatment for spider veins located primarily on the face and legs. The Veinwave device uses thermocoagulation—a high-frequency current—to heat up the vein and immediately destroy it. Veinwave requires no anesthesia, takes less than ten minutes to complete, has few side effects and requires no downtime or recovery time. It is patient-friendly with instant results.
VNUS Closure (Radio Frequency Vein Ablation)
VNUS Closure uses radio-frequency energy to generate heat in the affected vein, thereby destroying it. Local anesthesia is administered at the insertion site where a tiny catheter is positioned in the affected vein. Ultrasound is used to ensure correct placement of the catheter. Once inserted into the vein, the catheter delivers radiofrequency energy to the vein wall, heating it and causing the vein wall to shrink and close as the catheter is removed.
The vein remains in the body and will be reabsorbed over time. A bandage will be placed where the catheter was inserted and you are free to go home. Most patients experience few side effects and resume normal activities the day after surgery.
If you suffer from the cosmetic and physical effects of varicose or spider veins, call Advanced Vein & Vascular Center today at 610-687-5347 to ask us about our minimally invasive alternatives to traditional vein stripping. We have many state-of-the-art choices for you to consider, and our knowledgeable staff can help determine which vein treatment options would be best suited for your specific needs.