Posted on Aug 08, 2023, 10 a.m.
Part 3 of an 8-article series written by Arlette Pacheco, Ph.D.
Varicose veins can be a source of discomfort for many people. These enlarged, twisted veins often appear on the legs and can cause symptoms like pain and aching. While lifestyle changes can help manage the condition, sometimes surgical intervention becomes necessary to provide lasting relief. A common surgical option for varicose veins is vein ligation and stripping. In this article, we will explore the details of this procedure, its benefits, and potential risks.
Introduction to Varicose Veins
Varicose veins(1) are swollen, twisted veins that usually occur in the legs. They are often blue or purple and appear bulging on the skin's surface. This condition develops when the valves in the veins malfunction, causing blood to pool and the veins to enlarge.
The primary causes(2) of varicose veins include:
- Prolonged standing or sitting
- Hormonal changes during pregnancy
Symptoms of varicose veins may include:
- Throbbing or cramping in the legs
- Itching around the affected veins
- Feeling of heaviness or tiredness
In severe cases, skin ulcers or open sores may develop near the ankles.
Understanding Vein Ligation and Stripping
Vein ligation and stripping(3) is a surgical procedure that involves closing the affected vein to redirect blood flow to healthier veins. In this surgical procedure, the affected vein is completely removed from the leg. Vein ligation and stripping is typically performed under general anesthesia or local anesthesia with sedation. It is most suitable for:
- Large and superficial varicose veins
- Varicose veins causing significant complications
- Patients that may not respond well to less invasive treatments
Before undergoing any treatment, it's essential to visit a vein clinic, such as a vein clinic in Scottsdale, to discuss the most suitable treatment for you.
Preparing for Surgery
Consultation with a Specialist
Before undergoing either vein ligation or stripping, it is crucial to consult a vascular specialist. They will:
- Assess your varicose veins
- Discuss your symptoms
- Recommend the most suitable treatment option based on your specific condition
In preparation for the surgery, the vein specialist will provide pre-operative instructions. These may include:
- Fasting for a certain period before the procedure
- Stopping certain medications
- Arranging for someone to accompany you on the day of surgery
The Vein Ligation and Stripping Procedure
Anesthesia and Incision
Before beginning the procedure(4), the patient is given either general or local anesthesia with sedation. Anesthesia ensures comfort throughout the surgery. Once the anesthesia takes effect, the surgeon makes small incisions near the groin and ankle to access the affected vein.
Ligation of the Affected Vein
The surgeon inserts a thin, flexible instrument into the incision near the groin and gently threads it through the vein, grasping the vein along the way. Once the device reaches the other incision near the ankle, the surgeon pulls the vein out through that incision, removing it from the leg. By closing the diseased vein, the blood will reroute through healthier veins. This reduces the appearance of varicose veins and alleviates associated symptoms.
Closing the Incisions
Once the vein ligation is complete, the incisions are closed using sutures or adhesive strips. The surgeon may also apply a sterile dressing to protect the incisions and promote proper healing.
Recovery and Post-operative Care
After the surgery, patients are monitored for a short period in a recovery area. The length of the hospital stay depends on the complexity of the procedure and the patient's overall health.
Patients will receive post-surgery instructions to aid in their recovery. This may include:
- Keeping the legs elevated
- Wearing compression stockings
- Avoiding strenuous activities for a certain period
- Taking prescribed medications to prevent infection and manage pain
Benefits and Risks of Vein Ligation and Stripping
Advantages of Vein Ligation and Stripping
Vein ligation and stripping offer several benefits, such as:
- Effective relief from painful symptoms associated with varicose veins
- Removal of the diseased vein from the leg, reducing the likelihood of recurrence
- Effective for large, tortuous veins that may not be suitable for other treatment options
- Potential improvement in cosmetic appearance due to the removal of the varicose vein
Potential Risks and Complications
While vein ligation and stripping is generally a safe procedure, there are potential risks and complications(5) to consider, including:
- Bleeding and bruising at the incision sites
- Infection in the surgical area
- Nerve damage that could cause temporary or permanent numbness or tingling
- Blood clot formation in the deep veins (deep vein thrombosis)
Discussing these risks with your vein specialist before deciding on a treatment plan is essential.
Varicose veins can be more than just a cosmetic concern; they can impact your quality of life. Vein ligation and stripping effectively relieve individuals with symptomatic varicose veins. Consult a vascular specialist to help you make an informed decision about the most suitable treatment for you.
This article was written for WHN by Arlette Pacheco who is a content writer who pursued a passion for Biology, earning a Ph.D. in Life Sciences. She discovered her love for writing, crafting scientific and divulgation articles, and bridging the gap between science and society.
As with anything you read on the internet, this article should not be construed as medical advice; please talk to your doctor or primary care provider before changing your wellness routine. This article is not intended to provide a medical diagnosis, recommendation, treatment, or endorsement.
Opinion Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy of WHN/A4M. Any content provided by guest authors is of their own opinion and is not intended to malign any religion, ethic group, club, organization, company, individual, or anyone or anything.
Content may be edited for style and length.
References/Sources/Materials provided by:
2 Anwar MA, Georgiadis KA, Shalhoub J, Lim CS, Gohel MS, Davies AH. A review of familial, genetic, and congenital aspects of primary varicose vein disease. Circ Cardiovasc Genet. 2012 Aug 1;5(4):460-6. doi: 10.1161/CIRCGENETICS.112.963439. PMID: 22896013.