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Late Summer 2003
Varicose Veins

Today’s Treatments are a Walk in the Park!

For many people, varicose veins are a cosmetic concern. But for others, they can cause aching pain and discomfort—enough to make a brisk walk something to avoid. And sometimes the condition leads to more serious problems, such as open sores.

Have you been putting up with the discomfort, wanting to avoid surgery? There’s good news: Compared to surgical treatments of the past, today’s treatments are a walk in the park!

Varicose veins (varix = twisted) are gnarled, enlarged veins that are visible under your skin. They may have a ropey appearance and be raised above the surface of the skin. Any vein may become varicose, but the most commonly affected areas are legs and feet.

Signs and Symptoms
Signs that your varicose veins may require treatment include:

An achy or heavy feeling in your legs.
Burning, throbbing, muscle cramping, and swelling in your lower legs.
Enlarged veins visible under the skin of your legs.

Apnea (brief periods in which the sleeper does not breathe), shortness of breath,and inability to get enough oxygen into the blood.

Brownish-gray areas on your ankle.
Itching around the veins.
Skin ulcers (open sores) near your ankle. These represent a severe form of vascular disease and require immediate attention.
If the veins involved lie deep within your legs, not on the surface, your legs may swell considerably. Please note: Any sudden leg swelling, whether or not it is accompanied by pain and redness, warrants urgent medical attention, as it may indicate a blood clot.


Treatments
Varicose veins can be eliminated by surgery or laser treatment.

Surgery: At Bridgeport Hospital, a new technique permits vascular surgeons to remove varicose veins faster and more effectively than traditional surgery.

Traditional varicose vein surgery involves making short incisions at various points along the length of the vein, and using an instrument to pull the vein out through these incisions.

With the new technique, the vascular surgeon inserts a tiny motorized device into the vein through small incisions to cut the vessel into small pieces. After suctioning the pieces out, the surgeon uses a miniature light to visually confirm that the entire vein has been removed.
"This new process is more effective and less traumatic than traditional surgical removal," says Bridgeport Hospital–affiliated vascular surgeon Paul Demartini, MD. "It reduces the time and the number of incisions required to perform the procedure. Studies suggest that this new method also reduces pain," he adds.

Laser: Vascular radiologists can perform varicose vein treatment using laser technology guided by ultrasound (images created using painless sound waves). This procedure is performed using local anesthesia and involves only a single small puncture of the vein. Guided by ultrasound images, a catheter (a long slender tube) is placed within the vein. A fiber-optic laser is inserted through the catheter. With it, bursts of light are used to damage the walls of the vein. The vein shrinks down over time and becomes invisible.

"The procedure takes about an hour, and at the end you’ll walk out of the doctor’s office," says Bridgeport Hospital radiologist Kenneth Zinn, MD. "You’ll wear a pressure stocking for a week, and you can resume near-normal activity immediately. This procedure involves very minimal risks and has a success rate of 97%," Dr. Zinn says.

Choosing a Treatment
Which treatment is best for you? This will depend on several factors, including:

your physician's diagnosis,
the size of the veins to be treated,

your own treatment history,

your age,
your history of allergies, and
your ability to tolerate anesthesia and surgery.

 

You may want to get advice from your primary care physician, or you may want to consult both a vascular surgeon and a vascular radiologist to make your decision.

For a referral to an expert vascular surgeon and vascular radiologist, call Bridgeport Hospital Physician Referral, 24/7, English/Spanish, at 888-357-2396.
  OR
Find an expert physician using our online Find a Physician search form.


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