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Venous Ablation: The solution to Varicose Veins

Varicose VeinsVaricose veins caused by chronic venous disease are a common, unsightly and uncomfortable problem. St. Claire HealthCare has a solution in the form of endovenous laser ablation, a non-invasive, outpatient treatment option.

David Victor, MD, a vascular surgeon who performs and helped establish the procedure at SCH, says that laser ablation can eliminate the swollen, painful varicose veins for many patients in a process that takes less than a day and requires almost no post-procedure recovery time.

Varicose veins are caused by incompetence of the saphenous vein, which runs down the length of the leg near the surface of the skin. Age, pregnancy, trauma, or other factors can cause the vein’s valves to stop working, and blood pools in the legs instead of circulating back up to the heart and lungs. This pooling blood lacks oxygen and contains metabolic waste products, which leads to the symptoms of venous disease: visible varicose veins; aching and swollen legs; and burning sensations. In severe cases, dark pigmented areas on the skin and ulceration can occur. Early symptoms of venous disease are often relieved by elevating the legs, but that doesn’t solve the problem of the insufficient valves.

Endovenous laser ablation, which was first established as a procedure more than a decade ago, is now the treatment of choice for symptomatic venous disease. Some milder cases can be solved with simple compression stockings, but laser ablation becomes an option when the diagnosis is class 3 through class 6, which range from symptoms without skin pigmentation to severe skin changes and ulceration.

Dr. Victor has been performing laser ablation over the last two years and says many patients have done extremely well, adding that they are usually very happy to undergo the procedure after suffering with the symptoms of venous disease. “It’s a great procedure and will help them in a high percentage of cases,” he says.

The procedure takes 45 to 90 minutes and involves injections, but no incisions, Dr. Victor says. First, an ultrasound is performed to detect the vein, a solution is injected around the area, and a laser is inserted under local anesthetic. The laser is activated and drawn up through the saphenous vein, closing the vein from the inside. With the vein closed, other veins with working valves can take over and prevent the blood from pooling in the legs.

The targeted approach of the laser within the vein prevents damage to the surrounding tissue in the legs, which is a big factor in reducing the time needed for recovery. Compared with the old treatment, which involved surgical stripping of the veins, Dr. Victor says laser ablation has “virtually no recovery period.” The patient can go home about an hour after the procedure and usually experiences immediate relief of symptoms.

Dr. Victor doesn’t just perform laser ablation, though; he’s also seen the procedure from the patient’s perspective. His own laser ablation was recently conducted by SCH general surgeon Jacob Perry, MD, and he says it went very well.

“I’ve been very pleased with my own results,” Dr. Victor says. His experience helps him feel even more confident when he discusses laser ablation with patients. “If they want their symptoms improved, this is a great way to have it done.”

Insurance companies generally require a patient to try wearing compression stockings for six weeks to three months before approving laser therapy, Dr. Victor added. St. Claire Family Medical Supply carries compression socks and hosiery and is located in Morehead across from Lowe's in the Kroger Shopping Center. If you experience varicose veins and haven't tried compression therapy, stop by and browse our options. For more information about venous ablation or to schedule an appointment, call 606.784.7551 ext. 1271 or 1204.