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New varicose procedure: less pain, less risk

June 1, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
Just 10 years ago, patients with varicose veins had those veins ripped out of their body with metal piping. While modern technology has moved on to less-invasive techniques, pain has still been an issue. Now a little precious metal is making a big difference for the 40 percent of women dealing with this problem.

Blueprints here, fabric there, and lots of movement in between. The job took a real toll on interior designer Christie Cooper. Turns out her varicose veins were making daily life impossible.

Dr. Alan Wladis from the Vascular Institute of Central Florida had the answer. A new gold-tipped laser fiber eradicates the vein with little risk or pain for patients.

The heated tip can be seen routing up the leg with ultra-sound guidance as it burns out the vein. But while the older, bare fiber tip cuts the vein, the gold tip coagulates it. The new method also offers less concentrated heat. That means less risk of puncturing the vein, and less pain, too. And overall, it's 98-percent effective.

For Christie, she can see the difference. Now she's back to moving and working like her old self.

Early studies on this new technology show it also results in less bruising for patients. In addition, the procedure is out-patient based, lasts just one hour, and is normally covered by insurance.


BACKGROUND: Swollen veins that bulge above the surface of the skin in a twisted fashion and are usually a dark blue or purple color are known as varicose veins. The swelling is the results of faulty valves in the veins that allow blood to flow to the heart; the valves stop working and blood accumulates, stretching and widening the veins. Varicose veins usually develop on the back of the calves or thighs of women, but men are also susceptible. Heredity, age, weight, and hormonal changes are common examples of why an individual might develop varicose veins. Some individuals may experience aching, burning, heaviness, tiredness, cramps and itching in the legs, and in others, there may not be any pain at all. (SOURCE: www.nlm.nih.gov)

THE GOLDEN CURE: One of the newest ways of getting rid of varicose veins is through the use of a laser beaming fiber with a golden tip. The tiny fiber is inserted into the problematic vein, and the golden tip works in two ways: it acts as a buffer between the fiber and the vein to reduce any chance of perforation, and it increases the tips visibility under the ultrasound. The entire laser is covered with a thin layer of glass tubing to ensure less concentrated heat, and a minimal chance of cutting the vein. The laser burns the vein, causing it to collapse, and the unsightly appearance to vanish. Clinical trials have shown that this type of laser reduces pain and bruising on patients. (SOURCE: www.healthnews.org)

TREATING VARICOSE VEINS: Surgical treatment for varicose veins is less invasive, and generally done on an outpatient basis. If you can't make it to see the doctor anytime soon, some helpful suggestions for increasing blood circulation, and decreasing the pain caused by varicose veins are: (SOURCE: www.mayoclinic.com)

  • Exercise by walking more
  • Take several short breaks to elevate your legs throughout the day
  • Avoid wearing heels and tight clothing or undergarments
  • Watch your weight and your diet
  • Avoid long periods of sitting and standing
  • Do not sit with your legs crossed

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