Varicose veins are abnormal veins which appear swollen, dark, twisted, or prominent blue or purple and can be seen through the skin. They are caused by malfunction of the valves within the blood vessel which prevent blood flowing backwards, due in part to the effect of gravity. Varicose veins can occur anywhere in the body, however, are by far most common in the backs of the calves and the inside of the thighs. If untreated, they are not only unsightly but can become very painful and lead to other health implications.

Varicose veins require treatment when they cause:

  • Chronic inflammation in the veins
  • Hardening of fatty tissue under the skin (lipodermatosclerosis)
  • Chronic pain, aching, throbbing, and tenderness
  • Bleeding
  • Venous insufficiency/poor circulation
  • Blood clots (thromboses)
  • Skin sores
  • Ulcers 
  • Cosmetic concerns

Varicose vein surgery traditionally required vein stripping. Surgical stripping of veins is now considered by many doctors to be a somewhat outdated practice, and wherever possible, it should be avoided in favour of less invasive treatment methods. There are some equally effective but ultimately better treatment options which are suitable for a large number of patients.

What is Surgical Stripping of Veins?

Varicose vein stripping is a surgical procedure which removes thickened, hardened varicose veins from the lower legs or thighs. Also referred to as vein avulsion, ligation, or ablation, it removes the greater saphenous vein, which is the large superficial vein in the leg. 

Several small incisions are made in the leg at the groin and in the calf or ankle. A thin, flexible wire will be inserted into and run through the vein at the groin and tied to the vein. It will then be pulled out of the incision at the lower leg, pulling the vein out with it. The incisions are then stitched and bandages and compression stocking are applied. 

Surgical vein stripping is performed under a general anaesthetic in hospital, usually as day surgery. It may also be carried out using an epidural anaesthetic, injected into the spine and you remain conscious but relaxed. 

The procedure is not suitable for people with poor circulation in the legs, skin infections, blood clotting conditions, who are very overweight or obese, or women who are pregnant.

Why Should Vein Stripping be Avoided?

While the reasons for having veins treated are certainly legitimate, stripping is not considered to be the best practice for a lot of patients and it should now only be used as a last resort. This is because, while it is a relatively safe procedure, it does carry some risks, including:

  • There is a 25% chance that varicose veins may reappear
  • Allergic reaction to the anaesthetic
  • Bruising
  • Scarring
  • Nerve injury
  • Bleeding
  • Blood clots
  • Infection

Recovery from vein stripping takes between two to four weeks on average, and it takes up to a month to be able to return completely to normal activities. The recovery process can be quite painful for some patients.

Fortunately, new advances in medicine now mean that many patients do not need to have their veins surgically stripped. 

Better Vein Treatment Alternatives  

Dr Nicole James at Crows Nest Vein Clinic performs the most medically-advanced, minimally-invasive vein treatments that are available today. 

Vein treatment to eliminate the greater saphenous vein now involves a procedure which permanently blocks the flow of blood through the varicose vein. The vein is not surgically removed, and will eventually be reabsorbed by the body. This combined treatment involves Endovenous Laser Ablation and Ultrasound Guided Sclerotherapy. 

Endovenous laser ablation destroys the lining of the vein by heating the interior wall of the vein with a laser; it is used on straight veins of 6mm or more in diameter. Learn more about this procedure here

Ultrasound-guided sclerotherapy involves the insertion of a solution to the vein, guided by ultrasound imaging, to shrink and collapse the vein. It is ideal for closing smaller varicose veins. Learn more here. 

Benefits include:

  • Safest vein treatment option
  • Lower cost
  • Fast recovery
  • Short waiting time
  • No hospitalization
  • Walk-in/walk-out day-only procedure
  • Minimal downtime and no time off work
  • No stitches
  • No scars
  • Minimal pain relief requirements
  • Minimal chance of developing DVT 

This minimally-invasive vein treatment option has been proven through medical research studies to be safe and effective for patients who experience chronic venous disorders. It delivers faster and more comfortable recovery times, fewer complications, and more pleasing long-term outcomes than vein stripping surgery for suitable patients. It requires no general anaesthetic, and ideal for some patients who have co-morbidities which nullify their suitability for surgery.

Contact Crows Nest Vein Clinic Today 

Crows Nest  Vein Clinic is the top vein treatment clinic in Sydney. Our vein specialist, Dr Nicole James, is highly trained in technologically-advanced,  minimally-invasive vein treatments to achieve the very best results for her patients. 

We are open for business as usual, closely adhering to all strict COVID-safe practices and the current advice from the NSW Department of Health.

Discover more about our vein treatments here

To talk to our team about the vein treatment options available at Crows Nest Vein Clinic and the safety of these, call to book a consultation with Dr James, on (02) 9906 1555. You may also email us at [email protected].