New speedy varicose vein treatment

by MARTYN HALLE, Daily Mail

Surgeons have devised a new way of removing the troublesome varicose veins that cause pain and discomfort to thousands of people.

Traditionally, large varicose veins have been removed from the leg by stripping them out and sealing off the ends - a painful procedure which involves staying in hospital for a night and taking several weeks off work until the bruising and swelling subsides.

But a new treatment means they can be removed by keyhole surgery with far less pain and inconvenience. Around ten to 20 per cent of the population are affected by varicose veins.

They are caused by the failure of valves in the veins to open and close properly. This stops efficient circulation and causes a build-up of pressure in the legs, marked by unsightly bulging and painful swelling.

Despite the symptoms, many sufferers choose not to have an operation because of the lengthy recovery period. But, with the new procedure, patients can be back on their feet in a couple of days.

The keyhole surgery involves an incision being made in the groin, while a thin catheter is fed down into the leg veins until it reaches the area that needs treating.

The catheter then delivers radio frequency energy to the vein wall, causing it to heat, collapse and seal shut.

London-based vascular surgeon David Greenstein is one of several specialists across the country using the technique. He says: 'This avoids the need for the patient to have at least one night in hospital and two or three weeks off work.

Removing the vein was always a minor procedure, but we had to keep patients in hospital to make sure there were no complications with bleeding from where we had closed off the ends of the veins.

'The patients also felt rather bruised and battered from the procedure. Now they are left with a few slight bruises along the leg which fade very quickly and a small bruise where we insert the catheter. Otherwise, you wouldn't know they'd had surgery.' The majority of varicose vein sufferers tend to be middle-aged or elderly women.

Some vascular surgeons believe that the effect of the female hormone progesterone may cause the veins to dilate.

Mr Greenstein says his patients have been delighted with their keyhole vein treatment. One of them was back on the golf course playing a full 18-hole round after two days. Nurse Laura King, 46, from Barnes, South-West London, is self- employed and could not afford to take time off work to recuperate.

'I had been suffering with sore and aching legs for a couple of years before I realised something was wrong,' she says. 'An ultra-sound scan showed I had faulty valves in my deep veins.

'I was going to have the conventional surgery until I heard about the new treatment. I had it done privately and it cost £3,500 but it was worth it for me because of the earnings I would have lost with several weeks off.

'I went back to work after just four days because I felt absolutely fine. There were a few bruise marks under the skin but no other sign that I'd even had an operation.'

So far, the operation is only done privately, after referral from a GP, but Mr Greenstein says he is convinced it will soon be available on the NHS because it is so quick and effective.

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