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If you think you need traditional varicose vein surgery; happily, I can tell you to think again. “Vein stripping,” that painful procedure that perhaps your parents or grandparents endured, is a thing of the past. In its place are minimally-invasive techniques such as laser ablation (ELVS). Today you don’t have to suffer to get back your smooth, pain-free legs.

The vein stripping surgery operation was developed in the early 1900s, and has not changed much since then. Vein stripping for varicose veins requires general anesthesia, larger skin incisions, and expensive hospital stays. Recovery can take several months with a lot of bruising and pain. Risks such as blood clots in the legs, nerve damage, infection, and scarring are unacceptably high. In addition, the recurrence rate, or likelihood of getting varicose veins in the same areas again after surgery, is over 30%.

Traditional vein stripping operations are rarely performed in this country anymore. You may read or hear about other varicose vein surgeries that have been developed over the past few decades. This includes SEPS (subfascial endoscopic perforator surgery) and PIN (perforator invaginate) stripping. It was hoped that these procedures would be good alternatives to vein stripping. I will not go into any detail about these surgeries as they are still more invasive and less effective than laser ablation, and have not gained widespread acceptance in the medical community.

But now, with modern minimally invasive techniques and imaging guidance all that has changed. Like other innovations such as angioplasty and stents, Interventional Radiologists have invented new ways to better treat old problems. Rather than blindly strip the veins, we now use high-resolution ultrasound imaging to diagnose which of the many possible leg veins, is the actual bad one causing the problem. The small ELVS laser fiber is threaded into the diseased vein, using local anesthesia through a tiny skin nick, while watching it with real-time ultrasound guidance. The fiber is withdrawn down the vein and the laser energy closes the vein. Rather than being stripped out of the leg, the treated vein will eventually collapse and disappear. You can find more detailed information on laser ablation on our website under treatments.

With the tools we have now to treat vein problems, you’ll never have to undergo varicose vein stripping or other invasive surgeries.

Michael Karnaze
About the Author

Dr. Karnaze has spent the past 25 years perfecting minimally invasive techniques to treat arterial and venous diseases. In addition, he is a renowned expert in newer minimally invasive therapies for cancer patients. He joined Fairfax Radiology in 1988, is certified by the American Board of Radiology and has received subspecialty certification in Vascular and Interventional Radiology.