Varicose Veins Treatment: A Q&A with UCSF Interventional Radiologists

Varicose veins are common condition involving swollen, twisted veins that you can see just under the surface of the skin. They are often treated with lifestyle changes and medical procedures designed to relieve symptoms, prevent complications and improve overall appearance. There are a number of treatments are available for varicose veins that are quick and easy, and don't require a long recovery time. One of these options is endovenous ablation which is equally as effective as traditional surgery, with shorter recovery times, faster return to work and healing times.

This procedure is offered at UCSF Radiology by a team interventional radiologists including Vishal Kumar, MD, Michael Heller, MD, Alexander Lam, MD and Maureen Kohi, MD. They answered a few common questions about Endovenous Ablation Therapy that patients and physicians might have.

What is Endovenous Ablation Therapy for varicose veins?

This minimally invasive procedure uses lasers or radiowaves to create heat to close off a varicose vein. An interventional radiologist makes tiny cut in the skin near the varicose vein and then inserts a small tube called a catheter into the vein. A device at the tip of the tube heats up the inside of the vein and closes it off.

Is a patient awake during Endovenous Ablation Therapy?

Yes – the patient will be awake during this procedure; however, the doctor will number the area around the vein.

When can a patient go home after having Endovenous Ablation Therapy?

Typically, a patient can go home on the same day as the procedure.

Can you walk after Endovenous Ablation Therapy?

We encourage patients to start walking immediately after the procedure, but we recommend avoiding strenuous exercises such as weight training for two-three weeks to allow time to fulling heal and for the vein to remain closed.

What are the side effects of venous ablation?

Common side effects right after most of procedures and surgical innovations for treatment of varicose veins include bruising, swelling, skin discoloration, and slight pain. However, the side effects are most sever with vein stripping and ligation, typically only performed for severe cases of varicose veins.

How painful is vein ablation?

Common side affects after Endovenous Ablation Therapy include slight pain (along with bruising, swelling, skin discoloration, and slight pain). However one of the goals of this procedure is to relieve pain from varicose veins along with improving the appearance of veins and preventing further health  complications such as pain, blood clots, or skin ulcers.

What is the risk of recurrence of varicose veins after Endovenous Ablation Therapy?

Unfortunately, you can't prevent varicose veins from forming. Ablation therapy can treat problematic veins now, but a patient needs to make lifestyle changes that can prevent varicose veins from getting worse, reduce pain, and delay other varicose veins from forming.

What lifestyle changes can a patient make to prevent varicose veins from getting worse, reduce pain, and delay other varicose veins from forming?

Avoid standing or sitting too long in one place without taking a break. Avoid crossing your legs when sitting and raise them when resting, sitting or sleep. Do physical activitiy to get legs moving, improve muscle tone, and to help blood move through the veins. For patients who are overweight, losing weight can help improve blood flow and ease pressure on veins. Also – avoid wearing tight clothes or high heels. Tight clothes can make varicose veins worse. Lower heeled shoes can help tone your calf muscles which can help blood move better through veins.

How can compression stockings help treat varicose veins?

Compression stockings create gentle pressure up the leg. This pressure keeps blood from pooling and decreases swelling in the legs. The types of compression stockings vary in pressure from support pantyhose to over the counter (OTC) compression stockings to prescription strength compression stockings that are fitted by a physician.

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