When I was a kid, I’d watch shows like Star Wars/Trek and look forward to a future bright with the promise of nifty answers to daily challenges: flying cars, on-demand food from a box in your kitchen and tricorder gizmos that you wave over boo-boos for an instant heal.
Well, the car doesn’t fly…especially noticeable in the traffic snarls around Chicago…the only people getting on-demand food are my kids…and I had to spend over a decade to learn how to fix boo-boos the old fashioned way.
But the techno-promise of the future actually DID arrive for one particular problem: varicose veins. Varicose veins are those aggravating, bulging and often symptomatic veins that happen mainly on our legs. A very common reason why they occur is due to an underlying problem within interconnected veins deeper beneath the surface that allows flow to pool downward with gravity.
Over time, this wrong-way flow increases the pressure within surface vein branches and stretches them out…makes them bulge and twist…and contributes to symptoms such as legs that feel heavy, tired, crampy, swollen and even “restless”, especially at the end of the day.
Back in days of yore…and by that I mean around a decade ago or so…vein-stripping surgery was the most common solution to dealing with wrong-way flow (reflux, to get all nerdy and technical). In order to spare the more squeamish readers, I won’t describe the procedure in detail…but suffice it to say vein removal surgery involved cutting & yanking, some amount of downtime & discomfort and, unfortunately an annoying percentage of side-effects & recurrence.
Around the turn of the millennium, some clever docs decided to harness minimally-invasive technologies used for things like cardiac catheterization…along with new & improved lasers/radiofrequency devices…and adapt them for use in malfunctioning lower extremity superficial veins. After racking up a bunch of cases and amassing data from around the world, the medical community slowly but surely realized that minimally-invasive endovenous ablation techniques were the way to go. Bye-bye surgery, hello future!
Instead of removing veins, endovenous ablation procedures allow us to leave the malfunctioning veins in place and just seal them shut. The body then instantly reroutes flow to properly functioning veins.
How Does Endovenous Laser Ablation Work?
During consultation appointments with new patients, we are able to sort out whether varicose veins are an isolated surface nuisance or are related to superficial venous reflux. This is accomplished by performing an ultrasound exam of the legs. Once we have figured out the extent of your issues, we can map out a treatment course tailored to your individual needs. Many patients are surprised to learn that consultations and many treatments may be covered by insurance & Medicare. Approval for treatment coverage may take time (often weeks to months), so scheduling consultations sooner rather than later makes the most sense. No worries about insurance-related issues: we take care of the approval process for you!
Once we get approval, we set up your procedure appointment(s). I typically reserve 60-90 minutes for each endovenous ablation. In truth, the actual vein-closure part only takes a few minutes. But getting to those crucial minutes requires time to get supplies ready and steps to ensure your safety and comfort. Plus, I don’t know about you, but I really dislike feeling rushed. I’d rather devote more time to fewer patients and make the process as pleasant as it can be for all involved, especially you!
As for the procedure itself, we can break it down to a few easily-understandable parts:
- After a little bit of local anesthetic is injected, an IV is comfortably placed in the problematic vein.
- A small, thin laser fiber is inserted inside the IV catheter.
- Additional dilute and cool anesthetic solution is gently infused in the region around the vein being treated. Ironically, the only parts of the procedure patients feel any (and it isn’t much) discomfort is when local anesthetic is placed. Once anesthetic is placed, the remainder of the procedure is pain-free and, from the patient’s perspective, pretty boring. [Not to me though, I love this stuff!]
- The laser can now be safely turned on. The IV/laser fiber are slowly removed; the laser heat-seals the vein shut as it is backed out of the vein.
- Once the IV/laser are completely removed, the tiny wound (smaller than most paper cuts) is dressed with a few fancy glorified Band-Aids called steri-strips. Some gauze & tape are placed along the treated area. We then put compression stockings on and elevate your legs for a few minutes. After that, you are free to return to most routine activities. Since there is no sedation required (or wanted) for procedures, you can drive yourself. There is minimal post-procedure discomfort: the strongest medication any patient has needed is an anti-inflammatory such as Aleve or Ibuprofen. I encourage all of my patients to be active: the mantra is “go,go,go!”
Once we have dealt with the underlying cause of the varicose veins and improve the venous flow in the legs, we then spend the remainder of your treatment course directly “cleaning up” the varicose and spider veins that remain on the surface by treatments called sclerotherapy. Sclerotherapy sessions typically take 30 minutes or less. Again, minimally-invasive, maximally-comfortable with no downtime is still the rule.
The Future is Now: Embrace It.
Endovenous Laser Ablation offers an effective, minimally-invasive, maximally-comfortable way to improve the flow in your legs. It is one of a number of state-of-the-art solutions that I offer that may help your legs to feel and look better than they have in years.
I have dedicated my career to ensuring that Rosen Vein Care provides a comfortable, safe, effective and affordable experience for patients seeking a vein clinic around Chicago and its suburbs. Schedule a consultation today to learn more about the benefits of the latest vein treatments I offer, including endovenous laser ablation, Clarivein® and VenaSeal®. I look forward to meeting you. My staff and I do our best to not only meet, but exceed your expectations.
See you soon!