Vein Stripping Alternatives
Vein stripping is a traditional surgery that in the past was frequently used to treat varicose vein disease of the legs. It was most often performed under general anesthesia in the hospital setting and was most commonly done for patients with rather severe symptomatic varicose veins. The surgery most commonly involves removal of a defective leg vein referred to as the great saphenous vein. This procedure is considered a true surgical operation, as it requires incisions on the legs and has a rather painful recovery. But vein stripping surgery is seldom done today. The reason that vein stripping fell by the wayside is for one reason: advances in medical technology. Now there are much better and less invasive options for treatment of varicose vein disease. Only is rare instances is vein stripping necessary nowadays.
In the 1990s new catheter based technology arrived to allow treatment of varicose vein disease with much less invasive methods. Laser technology for venous disease started to be utilized with high success and low complication rates. Shortly thereafter, radiofrequency ablation catheters were also developed for treatment of varicose vein disease. Over the past decade, further new and exciting catheter-based technologies have further advanced the field of venous disease management. These modern technologies have allowed a swift paradigm shift in the treatment of venous disease.
Alternative #1 to Vein Stripping: Endovenous Radiofrequency Ablation
Endovenenous radiofrequency ablation or the Venefit Closure Procedure is one procedure that has replaced vein stripping surgery. This procedure is done in the doctor’s office under local anesthesia. No incisions are needed as the procedure is performed with radiofrequency energy through an IV site. The procedure takes about 30 minutes. There is very little discomfort associated with the procedure and almost no recovery time required after.
Alternative #2 to Vein Stripping: EndoVenous Laser Therapy or EVLT
EndoVenous Laser Therapy, commonly referred to as EVLT or Endovenous Laser Ablation, is another common alternative to vein stripping. This procedure involves placing a laser fiber into a defective leg vein to heat it closed. The laser fiber is a small thin fiber that is about the diameter of a toothpick. The laser fiber is placed through an IV after numbing the skin with Lidocaine. The procedure only take about 30 minutes and is done in the doctor’s office. There is very little discomfort with EVLT and minimal recovery time.
Alternative #3 to Vein Stripping: Ultrasound-guided Sclerotherapy
Improvements in the safety and effectiveness of sclerotherapy medications for treatment of vein disease has also allowed many surgical vein treatment to be replaced with this less invasive option. The treatment is often referred to as foam sclerotherapy or the Varithena procedure. With ultrasound-guided sclerotherapy, a small needle is inserted into the abnormal vein(s) under ultrasound guidance. A liquid solution is then injected into the vein under direct visualization until the drug contacts the vein wall and causes it to close. Since a drug alone is used to treat the veins, no incisions are required. The medication is painless to inject and it works very quickly. This therapy is very useful for treating serpentine or tortous varicose veins, as the drug will float around turns in the vein as it is injected. This allows treatment of a large squiggly vein with a single needle puncture.
Alternative #4 to Vein Stripping: Clarivein Treatment
The Clarivein procedure is another vein treatment that has replaced the need for vein stripping. It utilizes a combination of a drug therapy with polidocanol and a mechanical catheter that disrupts the endothelium lining of the abnormal vein. This procedure is done through a single IV puncture site. One of the advantages of this treatment is that it does not require the administration of local anesthetic. In addition, it can be utilized for treatment of saphenous vein disease below the knee (which is very common). The procedure typically takes about 30 minutes.
Alternative #5 to Vein Stripping: Covidien VenaSeal Procedure
Another alternative to surgical vein stripping is to use a revolutionary adhesive to “glue” the abnormal veins closed. This is done under ultrasound guidance and is painless. It does not require the administration of sedative or local anesthetic and has a high success rate in closing defective saphenous veins that lead to varicose vein formation. The product is manufactured by a company called Covidien.
If you would like to discuss any of these minimally-invasive options for treating your varicose veins, please contact Austin Vein Specialists at (512) 339-9100. Our board-certified vein specialists will discuss which options fit your individual condition.