Vein Stripping

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Vein strippingSummary

  • Surgical procedure with anesthesia
  • Painful with long recovery
  • Serious risks
  • Incision scars
  • High cost

What is Vein Stripping and how does it work?

Vein stripping is an older surgical procedure performed to treat varicose veins, and has largely been replaced by newer, less invasive, and more effective procedures (see Sclerotherapy). Normally performed in a hospital operating room and under general or spinal anesthesia, the surgeon will actually cut in your groin and tie off the saphenous vein (a large superficial vein on the leg) at its origin. Then he will make more incisions along the leg from the thigh to right below your knee, insert a special stripping tool into the vein and strip the vein out of the body.

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This procedure truly is as frightful as it sounds. As a real surgery requiring anesthesia, you may experience multiple complications, including allergic reactions, deep vein thrombosis, infection, and others. Not to mention the fact that your legs could be scarred in multiple locations. I don’t know about you, but I want to remove varicose veins to get my smooth legs back, and that certainly isn’t going to happen with a bunch of stitches on them.

As mentioned above, vein stripping is becoming rather obsolete in the ‘vein world’, and the latest minimally invasive techniques, such as sclerotherapy or laser treatment are less painful and time-consuming, and much more effective. As a matter of fact, according to studies, vein stripping surgery is only 71% effective compared to the success rate of 98% of minimally invasive laser therapies.

Is Vein Stripping painful and what’s the recovery time?

There are two most important questions people always ask me:

Is it going to hurt?

The simple answer is YES. Not necessarily during the procedure itself since you’re going to be under general or spinal anesthesia, but definitely afterwards. During the vein stripping surgery, branch veins attached to the main saphenous vein are broken. This causes blood to leak into surrounding tissues and results in postoperative bruising, soreness, and pain.

Can I go to work the day after?

The simple answer is NO. As with other invasive procedures, most patients are required to stay at hospital at least overnight. This is mainly for possible post-operative complications, and there are more than just a few. You will need up to 8 weeks at home to recover from the surgery, and you will be completely sidelined for the first several days as your legs will be wrapped with bandages to control swelling and bleeding. So, a word of advice for all you busy bees, clear out your work schedules and don’t plan any vacation because this is going to take a while!

How serious are the risks of Vein Stripping?

High. Surgeries in general carry many more serious risks than minimally invasive or non-invasive procedures because they require general anesthesia:

  • Allergic reactions
  • Bleeding
  • Infection of the incision

On top of it, there are a number of post-operative complications directly related to the invasive surgical procedure. You have to imagine that your leg is being cut wide open in multiple locations and things can go wrong all the time. Risks of vascular surgery include:

  • Nerve damage – vein stripping can damage surrounding nerves and lead to numbness.
  • Lymphatic tissue damage – this can lead to chronic leg swelling.
  • Deep vein thrombosis – formation of a blood clot in a deep vein.
  • Pulmonary embolism – blockage of the main lung artery as a result of deep vein thrombosis when the clot breaks off and migrates to the lung.

Might be needless to say that all these risks can be, and in some cases are, fatal.

I don’t know about you, but for me this would be enough to avoid Vein Stripping. Even if I wanted to give the surgery a chance, I am definitely discouraged by the outcome:

Any incision scars are permanent and the varicose veins can return over time!

Learn more about advanced non-invasive techniques, such as the following: