Understanding Laser Vein Ablation

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Understanding Laser Vein Ablation

Ashley H.  Stewart, MD, FACS

By Ashley H.  Stewart, MD, FACS

7/10/13

Many people are unfamiliar with treatments of Varicose Vein Disease. I(n the past, treatment was limited to basically two options: compression hose or vein stripping. Understandably, most patients simply lived with the pain and didn’t seek treatment until the disease was advanced. Increasing technological capabilities have changed the scenario, including imaging capability available in the physician’s office and advancement of endovascular, or catheter-based system, treatments.

Dr. Ashley Stewart offers his insight on Laser Vein Ablation.

What is a varicose vein?

In simple terms, a varicose vein is a malfunctioning vein. Veins are meant to carry blood back to the heart, in effect, a one-way street. When the one-way valves in the vein do not function, the blood is allowed to pool; this most often occurs in the saphenous vein (long straight vein in inner thigh).

Who is at risk for varicose veins?

Virtually everyone is at risk. Up to 70 percent of women and 60 percent of men will present with venous reflux disease, which can result from genetics, age, pregnancy, weight gain, long periods of standing, etc.

How do varicose veins affect individuals?

Symptoms include aching, cramping, itching, swelling, darkening of the skin of the lower leg, feeling of heaviness and fatigue. Once the vein is malfunctioning, the condition will worsen with time.

Do insurances policies typically cover treatment?

Most plans, including Medicare, cover venous ablation based on meeting medical necessity for symptom relief.

What does vein ablation involve?

The procedure, which takes about 15 minutes, is performed in the office with a sedative and local anesthetic. The total office visit typically lasts about an hour.

Is discomfort associated with the procedure?

Some people complain of soreness, but prescription pain medication isn’t necessary, nor is activity restricted.

What happens if the varicose vein is left untreated?

The disease would ultimately progress to wounds that are difficult to heal. However, with today’s treatment options, it is unnecessary for anyone to suffer like this.

What if I only see spider veins?

Spider veins are indicative of a varicose vein upstream that you may or may not yet see.

Can spider veins be treated?

Yes. The most prudent approach is to screen the patient for subtle symptoms, varicose veins and venous reflux disease, which is usually the underlying cause. If exclusively treating the spider veins (and not a varicose vein), there are three options. Of these, I believe the most permanent solution is an injection of solution with an extremely fine needle that cauterizes the vein.

Do insurance policies typically cover this treatment?

If only spider veins are treated, many plans consider the procedure cosmetic, and therefore would not cover it.

What happens if these are left untreated?

There is no medically bad outcome for untreated spider veins, but they may become more unsightly.

Do you perform treatments for both spider and varicose veins?

I offer the entire range of venous procedures and most commonly perform Endovenous Laser Ablation. Everything is performed in my clinic in a comfortable setting with an outstanding team.

When did you begin treating varicose veins?

I began five years ago when the technology became available. Since then, I estimate that I have performed at least 600 procedures. I cannot recall an unsatisfied patient. Most people report their symptoms are relieved within 48 hours. I love all aspects of General Surgery and Breast Surgery, but I have devoted a portion of my practice to this because it is such a safe, high-impact, high satisfaction procedure.

Ashley Stewart, MD, is board certified by the American Board of Surgery and Fellow of American College of Surgeons.