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Varicose veins
















What causes varicose veins?

varicose vein surgery can remove unsightly veinsThe leg veins normally carry blood up the legs toward the heart. There are valves in the veins, which allow the blood to flow up the legs but not back down again. Weaknesses in the vein walls can lead to the vein bulging, making the valves fail. Blood now flows both up and back down the leg, causing more pressure on the vein and more bulging varicosities.

The varicose veins look unsightly, but can also cause aching, swelling and tiredness. Over time, the skin around the calf can also become hard and discoloured with brown pigment from the leaky veins.



What is varicose vein surgery?

Commonly, the specialist will arrange a scan of your legs before the procedure. This gives more information on the valves, and which ones are causing the problem. The specialist can now decide whether cuts are needed behind the knee or in the groin. The procedure is often performed under general anaesthesia; a special instrument is then used to remove ('strip out') the main varicose vein. Smaller cuts may also be needed along the leg to remove smaller varicosities. A tight bandage is then put around the leg to help reduce bruising.


Are any other surgical procedures available?

  • VNUS - a special catheter is inserted into the vein through a single entry point. The catheter uses radiofrequency to heat the wall of the vein, causing it to collapse and seal shut. This helps to improve symptoms and appearances.

  • Laser - a thin probe is inserted through a single point into the vein. The probe delivers Laser energy, causing the vein to heat up and shrink down.


Which is the right procedure for me?

There is no 'universally best' procedure, and choice of procedure will often depend on your symptoms and nature of problem. Your specialist will be able to discuss options with you and help you decide on the best procedure.


What are the risks of varicose vein 'stripping'?

  • Bleeding - this can often lead to bruising of the leg, but rarely leads to a blood transfusion.

  • Infection - this may require antibiotics to settle

  • Blood clots in the legs - clots in the calf (deep vein thrombosis / DVT) can usually be treated with medication, but a DVT can (rarely) move to the lungs. This can cause breathing difficulty, or even death.

  • Numbness around cuts - this often resolves, but can occasionally be permanent.

  • Damage to nerves - this is rare from varicose vein surgery, but can lead to permanent leg or foot weakness.

  • Swelling of the leg - this can happen after a DVT, or if you have had multiple operations for varicose veins.

  • Recurrent or residual veins - you may find that, despite best efforts, some varicosities are still present after the procedure. If these are causing problems, they may be amenable to further surgery at a later date. Occasionally varicosities can return after surgery, and may need further surgery if causing problems.


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Any procedure involving skin incision can also result in unfavourable scarring, wound infection, or bleeding. This list of risks is not exhaustive, and you should discuss possible complications with your specialist. Whilst these risks will seem very worrysome, and indeed can be serious, it should also be borne in mind that many people have no postoperative problems whatsoever.

The information provided is as a guide only and you should discuss matters fully with your specialist before deciding if this is the right procedure for you. Please also read our disclaimer






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