What surgical procedures are available to treat varicose veins?
Varicose veins are frequently treated by surgically eliminating the "bad" veins. This forces the blood to flow through the remaining healthy veins. In vein stripping surgery, the problematic veins are "stripped" out by passing a flexible device through the vein and removing it through an incision near the groin. Smaller tributaries of these veins also are stripped with this device or removed through a series of small incisions. Those veins that connect to the deeper veins are then tied off. This stripping method has been used since the 1950's. This is now usually performed using outpatient surgical procedures and rarely requires general anesthesia.
Spider veins cannot be removed through surgery. Sometimes, they disappear when the larger varicose veins feeding the spider veins are removed. The remaining spider veins also can be treated with sclerotherapy.
Are these procedures painful?
For all of these procedures, the amount of pain an individual feels will vary, depending on the person's general tolerance for pain, how extensive the treatments are, which parts of the body are treated, whether complications arise, and other factors. Because surgery is performed under anesthesia, pain is not felt during the procedure. After the anesthesia wears off, there can be some pain at or near the incision(s).
For sclerotherapy, the degree of pain will also depend on the size of the needle used and which solution is injected. Most people find hypertonic saline to be the most painful solution and experience a burning and cramping sensation for several minutes when it is injected. Some doctors mix a mild local anesthetic with the saline solution to minimize the pain.