Arteries deliver blood from the heart to the body while veins return the blood back to the heart for re-oxygenation.
Vein deterioration leading to Venous Insufficiency is a common condition resulting from a decrease in blood flow from the veins in the legs leading up to the heart. The result is a pooling of blood inside the leg veins.
In healthy veins, one-way venal valves keep blood flowing up the legs against gravity and into the heart for recirculation. But when the valves inside the leg veins become weakened and fail to close properly, they allow blood to flow backward. This condition is called reflux.
Veins that have lost their valve efficiency become stretched and elongated appearing rope-like, thickened, and swollen. These swollen, bloated vessels are known as varicose veins and are the end result of amplified pressure from reflux. A common cause of varicose veins in the legs is reflux in the great saphenous vein in the thigh, which results in pooling of blood in the visible varicose vein inferior to (below) the saphenous.
How Common are Varicose Veins in the U.S.?
- Chronic venous disease of the legs is one of the more common conditions affecting people of all races.
- Approximately one-half of all Americans are afflicted by venous disease.
- For women that means 50 to 55% and for men 40 to 45% are affected.
- Of this number, up to a quarter of the women and 15% of men exhibit visible varicose veins.
- Varicose veins plague one out of two people age 50 and older, and nearly a quarter of all adults.
Symptoms of Varicose Veins
Symptoms of leg vein disease include obvious visual "snaking" of the leg veins, leg fatigue, and achy leg "heaviness", all of which get worse as the day goes on. Many find that they need to sit down and elevate their legs in the afternoon to alleviate the pain and symptoms. In advanced cases of vein reflux and venous insufficiency skin discoloration and ulceration may result. These cases may be very difficult to self-relieve. About one percent of adults over age 60 have chronic conditions known as ulcers.
Many people have symptoms even without visible varicose veins. The symptoms can occur from spider veins as well as varicose veins, because, in both cases, symptoms are the result of pressure on the nerves because the veins are dilated and swollen.
Assessment & Diagnosis
At Riverwoods Imaging Center, Dr. Wendell Gibby, an interventional radiologist specifically trained in performing minimally invasive treatments with the assistance of imaging guidance, performs varicose vein ablations. Riverwoods uses duplex ultrasound to assess your leg vein anatomy, venous blood flow changes, and vein valve function. This assists our radiologist in diagnosing any venous insufficiency. Dr. Gibby or other radiologists map and study the greater saphenous vein and examine the deep and superficial venous systems to determine if the veins open properly to locate and identify any reflux present. All this helps to determine if you are a candidate for this minimally invasive treatment, known as vein ablation.
Vein Ablation Treatments
Reflux inside the great saphenous vein leads to blood pooling in the visible varicose veins below. By closing the great saphenous vein, the twisted and varicosed branch veins, which are close to the skin, shrink.
Vein Ablation is a minimally-invasive, outpatient treatment performed at Riverwoods Imaging Center employing ultrasound imaging guidance.
The procedure is performed by Dr. Gibby, a renowned interventional radiologist, by injecting a local anesthetic into the vein, then inserting a thin catheter, about the size of a spaghetti strand, into the vein. He then guides the small catheter up the great saphenous vein in the thigh (see illustration). A laser or radiofrequency heat wave is applied to the inside of the vein, which cauterizes and closes the diseased vein. After the diseased vein has been closed, other healthy veins take over to carry blood from the leg, re-establishing normal, healthy blood flow back to the heart.
The result is an improved external appearance of the vein and leg, while relieving the painful symptoms associated with varicose veins.
Vein Ablation Procedure Benefits
- Vein Ablation patients typically experience an immediate return to normal activity with minimal or no pain.
- There may be minor bruising or soreness, which are usually treated with common over-the-counter medications.
- The procedure normally takes less than an hour to perform and provides immediate relief from symptoms.
- There are no stitches or scarring since the procedure does not require any surgical incision, just a small poke in the skin, about the size of a pen point.
- Vein Ablation has a high success rate and low recurrence rate compared to surgery, with success rates ranging from 93% to 95%.
Many insurance companies cover the Vein Ablation procedure, based on medical necessity for relief of symptoms. Contact our billing department for further information at 801-437-4895.
To schedule an appointment or for answers to any questions you have, please call us at (801) 229-2002.