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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.

Return to Varicose Veins

See what others are saying

Comment from: Hiking_Girl, 35-44 Female (Patient) Published: December 01

I had EVLT (endovenous laser treatment) on the greater saphenous vein in the upper half of my leg 6 days ago. From the literature I was given, I was under the impression that this procedure for varicose veins was virtually painless. It was not! They have to nick your skin for the insertion of the catheter and I would swear I was not numbed for that. It was almost unbearably painful. From there, a series of what seemed like never-ending numbing injections up the length of my inner thigh almost had me kicking the doctor and jumping off the table. I feel I have a pretty high threshold for pain and when told 'you'll feel a pinch and a little sting', I didn't think anything of it. Each one of those sticks felt like a snake bite and then liquid fire being injected into your skin. Well, I managed to survive this 'minimally invasive and virtually painless' procedure. The next few days were awful as well! My leg swelled from my knee to my groin. I had a very large area around my inner knee that was bright red, swollen, burning hot and extremely painful to the touch. I was told I could only take Tylenol (which is a joke) for the pain. My doctor would not let me take any Ibuprofen for the swelling. After being told 2 days later I could use a heating pad on this area, the swelling and nastiness subsided. I am currently 6 days post procedure and just now feeling a bit normal. They also tell you that you can return to work the same day. Unless you are a superwoman and heal instantly, you will not want to even think about that. By the way, I have to go back in about 7 days and do this all over again on my lower leg. I'm hoping it's all worth it!

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