Vein ablation is an in-office safe procedure that closes the bad veins in your legs. The treatment is non-invasive and uses radiofrequency energy to reduce problems such as pain, fatigue, swelling, and irritation in your legs.
The heart pumps the blood, which circulates through arteries to the legs and comes back to the heart through veins. These veins have one-way valves to move the blood against gravity back to the blood.
In some people, these valves start leaking blood into the leg veins, causing them to expand. As a result, these veins start becoming visible under the skin. It can be painful and cause a heavy feeling in your legs.
Vein ablation or endovenous ablation is a process that uses laser energy to cauterize or burn these veins and redirect the flow of blood. The procedure is safe and does not leave any scars on the body.
Before you head for the procedure, you will have a detailed discussion with your interventional radiologist. It is advisable to share your medical history with the specialist doctor during your consultation. Share the details of all the medicines you are taking, along with herbal supplements.
Apart from this, mention your allergies and any previous reactions during sclerotherapy. It is also crucial to talk about past problems with local anesthesia.
In most probability, your doctor will ask you to stop taking blood thinning medication like aspirin. If you are on non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medicines (NSAIDs) or blood thinners, such as warfarin or Clexane, the doctor may ask you to stop them for some time.
The radiologist will also discuss all the complications resulting from the procedure and the cost. After you have agreed to the discussion, you will sign a consent form to initiate the procedure.
Vein ablation can cause some bruising and inflammation in the affected area. You will also be required to wear compression stockings for at least 14 days after the procedure. Thus, you may want to schedule this procedure for the colder months.
It is recommended to wear comfortable and loose clothing when you come for the procedure. Try not to wear any jewelry or accessories. You will have to change into a gown and remove all the jewelry.
The radiologist will inject local anesthesia into the impacted veins. After the treatment, you may experience some discomfort. Your legs could ache or feel sore for some time. Your doctor will prescribe a medicine to treat this pain and tenderness.
Most importantly, do not forget to bring your compression stockings. You will be asked to wear them immediately after the procedure. Your radiologist will discuss the type of stockings you will need during your pre-procedure consultation.
Finally, having someone drive you home after the procedure is also recommended. There may be some residual numbness in your leg that can impact driving.
Vein ablation is safe surgery, and you will not need exceptional precautions. Usually, most patients are allowed to go home after the procedure. You can check with your doctor if you need to stay in the hospital after the treatment.
Apart from this, you may want to prepare to wear compression stockings for the first 14 days. You will be required to wear the stockings all the time in the first four days. The doctor may allow you to wear them only during days and not the nights after that. Moreover, the doctor will ask you to walk at least 30-40 minutes every day for the next fourteen days. It is also inadvisable to sit for long periods after the procedure.
It is always better to know how the procedure is done to prepare yourself. This entire process takes about an hour from start to finish, and you will be standing during the process. You may have to come for another visit if you need multiple treatments in both legs.
In the room where vein ablation happens, you will see an ultrasound machine, catheter, radiofrequency electrode or laser fiber, and console. The ultrasound machine has a transducer which is a small hand-held device. The catheter is a thin plastic tube that is used to numb the abnormal vein.
The first thing a radiologist will do is give you shielding eyewear to protect you from laser energy. Next, the doctor will apply gel to the area that requires the procedure. With the help of the transducer, the radiologist will see the ultrasound image on the video monitor. It helps the doctor to see and study the vein.
The doctor will then clean and sterilize the area and numb the specific area that requires intervention. The leg will be shaved and covered with a surgical drape. Next, the doctor will insert a fiber or electrode into the specific location in the vein. A small incision is required to do this. The doctor will then inject local anesthesia into the tissues around the vein. After that, the doctor will slowly remove the catheter.
At the same time, the doctor uses a laser or radiofrequency to collapse the vein around the fiber or electrode. The anesthesia will also protect from the heat caused by the laser energy.
After the procedure, the vessels in the vein will die down and shrink. The blood flow will divert to nearby veins. This procedure does not require any sutures.
The doctor will apply a little pressure to stop bleeding as the catheter is withdrawn. The doctor will then cover the skin with a dressing.
The most significant benefit is that this procedure does not require invasive surgery. Only a tiny incision is made for the procedure, which does not require stitches. The traditional vein stripping technique was a far more complicated process and came with the possibility of complications.
Moreover, the incision does not leave any scars. Most patients can immediately experience relief and return to routine activities without pain or discomfort.
There are no severe side effects of the vein ablation procedure. However, you will experience some minor bruising and swelling. You may also feel some pain and discomfort in the leg.
As the procedure burns some vessels in the vein, you can also experience some numbness in that area. This feeling can last as long as 3-6 months.
Apart from this, there can be some inflammation around the vein which will cause redness in the skin. Such inflammation can take 10-21 days to heal.
However, if you sense calf tenderness and swelling, you should contact your radiologist immediately. It could be a sign of deep vein thrombosis, a blood clot in the deep veins.
The catheters used in vein ablation can only work on straightforward vessels. Thus, radiologists use this procedure only for superficial veins. A vein with too many turns is not the best subject for this procedure.
Apart from this, you may need subsequent treatments to close small and dilated branches of the vein even after the procedure. These further treatments could include phlebectomy or sclerotherapy.
Vein ablation is generally a successful and durable procedure. The patient can expect to experience significant improvement immediately after the treatment. Due to its high success rate, this procedure has replaced surgical vein stripping.
Most veins treated via vein ablation become invisible around 12 months after the procedure.
If you have been planning to get the vein ablation treatment, you can connect with the experts at Cardiology Consultants, P.A. The practice serves Upstate South Carolina and Western North Carolina. Please get in touch with our team for more information.