The symptoms of varicose veins can be controlled to an extent with the following:
- Elevating the legs often provides temporary symptomatic relief.
- "Advice about regular exercise sounds sensible but is not supported by any evidence."
- The wearing of graduated compression stockings with a pressure of 30–40 mmHg has been shown to correct the swelling, nutritional exchange, and improve the microcirculation in legs affected by varicose veins. They also often provide relief from the discomfort associated with this disease. Caution should be exercised in their use in patients with concurrent arterial disease.
- Diosmin and Hesperidine and other flavonoids.
- anti-inflammatory medication such as or aspirin can be used as part of treatment for superficial thrombophlebitis along with graduated compression hosiery – but there is a risk of intestinal bleeding. In extensive superficial thrombophlebitis, consideration should be given to anti-coagulation, thrombectomy or sclerotherapy of the involved vein.
Active medical intervention in varicose veins can be divided into surgical and non-surgical treatments. Some doctors favor traditional open surgery, while others prefer the newer methods.
Newer methods for treating varicose veins such as Endovenous Thermal Ablation (endovenous laser treatment or radiofrequency ablation), and foam sclerotherapy are not as well studied, especially in the longer term.
Several techniques have been performed for over a century, from the more invasive saphenous stripping, to less invasive procedures like ambulatory phlectomy and CHIVA.
Stripping consists of removal of all or part the saphenous vein main trunk. The complications include deep vein thrombosis (5.3%), pulmonary embolism (0.06%), and wound complications including infection (2.2%). For traditional surgery, reported recurrence rates, which have been tracked for 10 years, range from 5-60%. In addition, since stripping removes the saphenous main trunks, they are no longer available for venous bypass in the future (coronary and/or leg artery vital disease)
CHIVA is an acronym from the scientific paper "Conservatrice et Hémodynamique de l'Insuffisance Veineuse en Ambulatoire" published in France in 1988. CHIVA relies on an hemodynamic impairment assessed by data and evidences depicted through ultrasound dynamic venous investigations. According to this new concept, the clinical symptoms of venous insufficiency are not the cause but the consequence of various abnormalities of the venous system. For example, a varicose vein being overloaded, may be dilated not only because of valvular incompetence (the most frequent) but because of a venous block (thombosis) or arterio-venous fistulae and so the treatment has to be tailored according the hemodynamic features.
It generally consists in 1 to 4 small incisions under local anaesthesia in order to disconnect the varicose veins from the abnormal flow due to valvular incompetence which dilates them. The patient is dismissed the same day. This method leads to an improvement of the venous function in order to:
- Cure the symptoms of venous insufficiency as varicose veins, legs swelling, ulcers.
- Prevent varicose recurrence due to progressive enlargement of collateral veins which replace and overtake the destroyed veins: CHIVA vs Stripping: varicose recurrence divided by 2 to 5 at 10 years.
- Preserve the superficial venous capital for unpredictable but possible need for coronary or leg artery vital by-pass which increases with ageing.
Lurie in his analysis of Chiva states that "CHIVA definitely falls into a research category and should be continued as such until sufficient evidence of its validity is generated".Unfortunately at this stage, the best available publication of CHIVA outcomes that meets current methodological standards Sclerotherapy is often used for telangiectasias (spider veins) and varicose veins that persist or recur after vein stripping. Sclerotherapy can also be performed using foamed sclerosants under ultrasound guidance to treat larger varicose veins, including the great and short saphenous veins. A study by Kanter and Thibault in 1996 reported a 76% success rate at 24 months in treating saphenofemoral junction and great saphenous vein incompetence with STS 3% solution. A Cochrane Collaboration review concluded sclerotherapy was better than surgery in the short term (1 year) for its treatment success, complication rate and cost, but surgery was better after 5 years, although the research is weak.
A Health Technology Assessment found that sclerotherapy provided less benefit than surgery, but is likely to provide a small benefit in varicose veins without reflux. This Health Technology Assessment monograph includes reviews of the epidemiology, assessment, and treatment of varicose veins, as well as a study on clinical and cost effectiveness of surgery and sclerotherapy. Complications of sclerotherapy are rare but can include blood clots and ulceration. Anaphylactic reactions are "extraordinarily rare but can be life-threatening," and doctors should have resuscitation equipment ready. There has been one reported case of stroke after ultrasound guided sclerotherapy when an unusually large dose of sclerosant foam was injected.
Endovenous thermal ablation
The Australian Medical Services Advisory Committee (MSAC) in 2008 has determined that endovenous laser ablation (ELA) for varicose veins "appears to be more effective in the short term, and at least as effective overall, as the comparative procedure of junction ligation and vein stripping for the treatment of varicose veins." It also found in its assessment of available literature, that "occurrence rates of more severe complications such as DVT, nerve injury and paraesthesia, post-operative infections and haematomas, appears to be greater after ligation and stripping than after EVLT". Complications for ELA include minor skin burns (0.4%) and temporary paraesthesia (2.1%). The longest study of endovenous laser ablation is 39 months.
Two prospective randomized trials found speedier recovery and fewer complications after radiofrequency ablation (ERA) compared to open surgery. Myers wrote that open surgery for small saphenous vein reflux is obsolete. Myers said these veins should be treated with endovenous techniques, citing high recurrence rates after surgical management, and risk of nerve damage up to 15%. In comparison, ERA has been shown to control 80% of cases of small saphenous vein reflux at 4 years, said Myers. Complications for ERA include burns, paraesthesia, clinical phlebitis, and slightly higher rates of deep vein thrombosis (0.57%) and pulmonary embolism (0.17%).One 3-year study compared ERA, with a recurrence rate of 33%, to open surgery, which had a recurrence rate of 23%.
ELA and ERA require specialized training for doctors and expensive equipment. ELA is performed as an outpatient procedure and does not require the use of an operating theatre, nor does the patient need a general anaesthetic. Doctors must use ultrasound during the procedure to see what they are doing. Some practitioners also perform phlebectomy or ultrasound guided sclerotherapy at the time of endovenous treatment. Follow-up treatment to smaller branch varicose veins is often needed in the weeks after the initial procedure.
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Last Updated: Jul 13, 2013