A game changer in treating varicose veins

For the Monitor
Published: 6/20/2020 4:43:34 PM

Interventional radiology is a powerful, effective method to treat patients with varicose veins.

What are varicose veins?

There are two systems of veins in the lower extremities: a deep system, which is the main route to carry blood back to the heart, and a superficial system of smaller veins leading to the deep system. Varicose veins occur when valves in the superficial venous system malfunction, blocking blood from flowing into the deep system and back to the heart. The blood pools in the vein, causing pain, swelling and potential ulcers of the legs.

What causes varicose veins?

Varicose veins can be caused by a variety of factors including family history of venous disease, obesity, pregnancy, age, trauma to veins or standing for long periods of time. Symptoms include bulging veins, aching, pain, a heavy feeling in legs, a throbbing sensation, fatigue, restless legs, itching or cramps.

What is interventional radiology?

Interventional radiology is a medical field in which specialists diagnose and treat a wide range of ailments and diseases by using images such as ultrasound to guide them in performing non-surgical, minimally invasive procedures. Those procedures typically involve less pain, lower risk of complication, shorter hospital stays and shorter recovery periods.

How is interventional radiology used to treat varicose veins at Concord Hospital?

Instead of previous varicose vein treatment which required major surgery with up to six weeks of recovery and a higher risk of the problem reoccurring, several interventional radiology procedures are offered Concord Hospital:

■Endovenous laser ablation: A laser device is threaded through a catheter into the affected vein, where it is turned on for about three minutes to disrupt the inside lining of the vein and cause it to close.

■Venaseal: A medical sealant, or glue, called Venaseal is inserted in the affected vein through a catheter to close the vein from the inside.

■Varithena: A foam called Varithena is injected through a tiny needle into the affected vein to close the vein.

In all three treatments, the affected vein shrivels over a few weeks and blood finds its way through other veins into the deep venous system and back to the heart. With all three treatments, patients typically resume normal activity in a day or two.

Why is it important to seek treatment for varicose veins?

Perhaps because of the nature of the previous treatment and long recovery time or perhaps because many people feel they simply must live with pain of varicose veins, only 10 percent of those with diseases of the veins seek treatment. However, varicose veins and the valve malfunctions that cause them can be progressive, causing worsening pain, less mobility and potentially life threatening blood clots and ulcers.

Interventional radiology procedures can halt the progression of venous disease and varicose veins. And, because the techniques are minimally invasive, they can be performed even on patients who might be too old to undergo major surgery.

(Dr. Ari Salis is board-certified in diagnostic radiology and vascular and interventional radiology. He presented a program on interventional radiology treatment options for varicose veins at the March Concord Hospital Trust “What’s Up Doc?” Donor Lecture Series. The monthly series features members of Concord Hospital’s medical staff speaking to Concord Hospital Trust donors about new and innovative medical treatments and services. You can watch Dr. Salis’s presentation on Concord Hospital’s YouTube channel at: youtube.com/concordhospital.)

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