Healthy legs, healthier life
Minimally invasive techniques reduce pain and speed healing
“My legs ache all day and cramp at night.”
“I saw a new varicose vein with each pregnancy.”
“I haven’t put on a pair of shorts in years.”
Vein problems are more than unsightly; some signify a deeper vascular problem that can compromise your health. Common symptoms include swelling, throbbing, pain with prolonged sitting or standing, burning, itching and night cramps. The good news is that you no longer have to live with aching, bulging veins — or undergo painful vein stripping surgery to remove them.
At The Vein Center at Aiken Regional Medical Centers, Thomas P. Paxton, MD, and his team perform minimally invasive techniques that address both medical and cosmetic vein disorders, including spider veins, reticular and varicose veins and chronic venous insufficiency. “We can treat these vein conditions more effectively — and with less pain, a much shorter recovery time and a reduced chance for infection or complications,” says Dr. Paxton.
What causes varicose veins?
Varicose veins — unsightly, blue, swollen tracks on the skin’s surface, usually on the legs — are one of the most common vein disorders, affecting about 50 percent of Americans over age 50.
In healthy veins, blood travels in one direction only, toward the heart. But sometimes blood leaks back through weakened valves and pools in the vein, enlarging and twisting the vein. This condition, called venous reflux, causes varicose veins. Besides looking unattractive, varicose veins can be painful. “If left untreated, varicose veins can lead to potentially serious complications including permanent skin changes, infections, and rarely, loss of limbs,” says Dr. Paxton.
A surgeon’s point of view
“As a surgeon, I have a different perspective that my patients have really come to appreciate,” says Dr. Paxton. “I view my patients’ veins as part of their entire cardiovascular system. When surgery is necessary, I do all I can to preserve healthy saphenous veins — the two major veins of the leg — because patients may need them for a future procedure. During coronary artery bypass surgery, for example, the saphenous vein is often used to reroute blood flow around blocked vessels.”
Minimally invasive treatments offered at the Vein Center at ARMC include:
Trans-illuminated Sclerotherapy: Using a light to illuminate vessels below the skin that can’t be seen by the naked eye, the surgeon can visualize hidden veins that may be feeding visible spider veins. A solution is injected that treats these feeder veins as well as superficial ones. The injection is virtually painless and can be done in the doctor’s office.
Ambulatory Ligation/Phlebectomy: A surgeon removes varicose veins on the surface of the legs by making tiny incisions through which the enlarged veins are either ligated (tied off ) or removed. The incisions are so small that very few stitches are required. Even large veins may be removed through the tiny incisions used in this technique. The patient is usually able to walk following the procedure.
VNUS Closure: Patients with saphenous vein reflux may be candidates for this outpatient procedure. The surgeon places a catheter into the diseased vein through a tiny incision below the knee. The needle and catheter are guided through the vein to just below the groin. Then, heat — via radiofrequency energy — and anesthetic are delivered through the catheter.
As the catheter is removed, the vein collapses on itself and seals shut. Healthy veins take over in redirecting blood flow to the heart.
“Most patients are very pleased with the results,” Dr. Paxton says. “They recover and can resume their normal activities quickly, their symptoms improve and their veins look better.”
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