You may already know more about varicose veins than you would like, because 10 – 25% of all adults and half of all Americans over age 50 have visible evidence of these big ropey leg veins. Normally, the valves in your leg veins prevent blood from flowing downward with gravity. The valves in varicose veins leak allowing blood to pool and causing the veins to enlarge. Symptoms can range from aching and fatigue to skin ulcers and blood clots. Women who have had more than two pregnancies are at particular risk, and heredity, weight and careers that require a vertical position throughout the day, like nursing or teaching are risk factors as well.
Back in the old days – (20th Century) – the only surgical option for patients with severe varicose veins was a procedure called vein stripping. Today, however, we have the next-generation medical technology to treat the problem – minimally invasive catheters that close the diseased vein from within. The physician pulls the device through the vein, delivering bursts of energy through the catheter’s heating element to heat and contract the vein walls. With the primary vessel sealed, the body automatically re-establishes healthier circulation and the varicosity symptoms quickly dissipate.
Catheter devices fall into two categories – radiofrequency (RF) devices and lasers. Both are fast and effective, but there is evidence that the RF devices are better tolerated by patients. One recent study found less post-procedure pain and bruising in patients treated with RF compared with those treated with laser. The latest RF device, the VNUS® ClosureFAST™ catheter, seals the vein in three to five minutes with virtually no discomfort to the patient. It can be done in the office with a local anesthetic, and the patient is in and out in less than an hour, usually resuming normal activity the next day. The leg pain and heaviness disappear almost immediately, and visible changes are evident in a few weeks.
Clinical studies have found the new procedure to be more than 97% effective, and because it is considered a medical necessity rather than a cosmetic enhancement, it is covered by Medicare and private health insurance. After having the procedure, patients are delighted to have the zip back in their legs – and to be able to wear shorts – for the first time in decades.
Amy Larson, M.D.
Are you a candidate for RF Closure? Avena Vascular is offering free varicose vein screenings to evaluate your legs in both Edmonds and Kirkland, WA. Dr. Ben Lerner will be in Edmonds on Tuesday, October 4th from 4-7pm and Dr. George Min will be in Kirkland on Thursday, Ocotber 13th from 4-7pm. Call 425-686-1895 or 855-834-8346 (toll free) to schedule a free varicose vein screening exam.