Is Surgery the Only Option for Varicose Veins?

November 15, 2019
November 15, 2019 Dr Zil

The Vein Institute does not perform varicose vein surgery as it is a more invasive treatment option with higher risks than laser treatment.

If you have varicose veins, you’ve likely heard about stripping, the traditional method of surgery to remove varicose veins. Stripping, for a long time, was considered the most effective way to remove varicose veins, despite the recovery time required. The procedure has been performed for over a century, but has continuously developed with the advancements in medicine and technology.

How Does Surgical Stripping Work?

The procedure is performed under general anaesthetic, with local anaesthetic also applied to the leg. Once under, a small incision is made at the top of your leg, at the groin, and another made at the ankle. Your surgeon blocks off the blood supply to the vein, then inserts a fine wire through the length of the vein. The wire is secured to the vein and then pulled back out. Removing the wire will also remove the vein it’s secured to, stripping it from your leg. Smaller incisions may be made along the leg, stripping smaller veins also, if necessary.

What is a Phlebectomy?

For smaller veins, phlebectomy is performed. Several tiny cuts are made in the skin through which the varicose vein is removed. Stitches usually are not required. See the video below. In comparison to stripping this is a much smaller procedure. Most surgeons perform both stripping and phlebectomy at the same time in theatre.

After the Procedure What Can I Expect?

Once the procedure is complete, you can expect a recovery time of up to four weeks. Immediately after your veins have been stripped, your leg will have been bandaged securely. The pressure of the bandages will help against swelling and bruising, and assist with circulation. Bandages or medical-grade compression stockings should be worn for up to ten days post-procedure.

After stripping, like with many procedures, discomfort is to be expected. Your leg may also be bruised or tender for several weeks, and the scars from the incisions may remain visible for up to a year. While elevating your leg is important, gentle exercise over the next few days will help you heal, despite causing mild discomfort. Resting too often will increase the risk of developing blood clots, or deep vein thrombosis (DVT).

Can Varicose Veins Come Back?

Even though varicose vein surgery is highly effective, it cannot prevent the chance of new varicose veins developing. There are many things that contribute to the development of varicose veins, and unfortunately, not many that prevent them.

While women are more likely to develop varicose veins, it doesn’t mean men are unlikely to develop them. Your chances of developing them are higher if your mother or father has them, if you’re overweight, have a job that requires prolonged sitting or standing, or if you are pregnant.

What Are the Alternatives?

If you have varicose veins, you should know that stripping isn’t your only option for treatment. Advancements in medicine mean new treatments have become available, such as endovenous laser ablation (EVLA) and radiofrequency ablation (RFA).

EVLA and RFA both cause the removal of varicose veins, but without actually taking the vein from your leg. These methods are similar to stripping, as a small incision in your leg is still made, and a fine fibre is also inserted into the vein, once anaesthetic is applied.

The difference is how the vein is removed. EVLA and RFA use heat to ignite the inserted fibre, and seal the vein from within. During these procedures, only local anaesthetic is required. Over time, the vein dissolves in the body.

Why Don’t We Perform Surgery?

New treatments such as endovenous laser ablation and radiofrequency ablation are as safe and effective as surgical stripping without the need for general anesthesia and time off work. For this reason, we have selected the new treatment options. No matter how large or small the veins are, treatment options are able to address your vein problems.

Additionally, it is well accepted among doctors that surgery for varicose veins is a more invasive surgical procedure with risk substantially higher than newer walk-in, out treatments. In some extremely rare instances, surgery is still necessary and your specialist at The Vein Institute will advise you if this is the case.

See the Australian Dept of Health report by clicking here reviewing endovenous laser ablation.

Seek expert advice

The doctors at The Vein Institute specialise in varicose vein treatment. We offer patients a comprehensive treatment program to treat varicose veins, with non-surgical laser treatment techniques. The benefits of laser treatment to patients are;

  • Walk-in walk-out treatment
  • 98% success rate
  • Extremely effective
  • Can be performed at a clinic (no hospitalisation)
  • No general anaesthetic
  • Medicare rebates apply
  • No downtime or time away from work

To book a consultation and discuss our treatment program, call 1300 981 402