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Vein Ablation for Varicose Veins

An Easier Solution to Varicose Veins

Do you have pain, swelling, and varicose veins in your legs? You're not alone: About 40 percent of all women and 25 percent of all men suffer from varicose veins.

Until now, solving the problem of varicose veins meant surgically removing, or stripping, the vein-a painful procedure with a lengthy recovery. Today, patients at Lowell General Hospital are finding relief easier than ever with laser vein ablation — a simple, minimally invasive alternative to surgery that gets you back to normal activity within a day, and without scars.

What are Varicose Veins?

Healthy leg veins contain valves that work against gravity, opening and closing to return blood from the legs back to the heart to be oxygenated. Varicose veins develop when the valves that keep blood flowing in superficial-close to the skin-veins become damaged or diseased. The damage can result from a number of factors, including age, heredity, prolonged standing, obesity, and trauma.

"As a result, valves do not close properly and fluid collects in the veins, causing them to enlarge and become varicose," according to Paul Gryzenia, MD, one of several interventional radiologists at LGH. "In addition to being unsightly, the veins can cause pain and discomfort and can make it very difficult to stand for more than brief periods. And if left untreated, varicose veins may lead to serious medical issues."

How Can You Get Relief?

In the past, the only option for varicose veins was surgery, requiring incisions in the groin and calf so the vein could be pulled out of the leg. The surgery typically left patients with two major incisions, as well as pain, swelling, and complications that kept them out of action for three weeks. With vein ablation, patients are essentially back to work and life the next day.

The procedure is performed in the Radiology Department by the interventional radiology team. Interventional radiologists have additional specialized training in doing diagnostic and therapeutic procedures using imaging guidance. They work with specially trained nurses and radiologic technologists as a coordinated team. Using ultrasound, the Lowell General interventional radiology team positions a thin catheter into the diseased vein through a tiny puncture in the skin. A stream of energy, generated by either a laser or radiofrequency (RF), is sent through the catheter, causing damage to the internal vein wall. As the catheter is withdrawn, the vein shrinks and closes. Once the diseased vein is closed, blood is rerouted to other healthy veins.

"We eliminate the diseased vein so that other healthy veins can take over," said Jonas Berman, M.D., Chief of Radiology. "The interventional radiologists at Lowell General Hospital have performed over 300 of these procedures with a 95 percent success rate."

Lisa Govoni, RN, a busy critical care nurse who needs to be on her feet much of her day, had been having difficulty standing for even a few minutes without pain and swelling in both of her legs.

"I was really amazed by this procedure," she said. "It was so quick and I had relief from my symptoms right away. And on top of that, I feel a lot more comfortable wearing shorts and skirts again."

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For more information about the treatments we offer, visit The Lowell General Hospital Vein Center.

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