New treatment for varicose veins

Seven's On Call with Dr. Jay Adlersberg
March 5, 2008 9:00:00 PM PST
For many people, varicose veins aren't just ugly. They're painful. With a new way to treat them, 7's On Call with Dr. Jay Adlersberg.

A new treatment for varicose veins -- doctors say there's less pain, less bruising and less downtime. 25-million Americans -- or half of all men and women over age 50 -- have varicose veins -- veins that become damaged and fail to regulate blood flow from the legs to the heart.

They're bulging, unsightly and can lead to fatigue and pain. Now, a quick new treatment is out there for varicose veins that gets patients back to their routine faster than ever.

Lately it's been Amelia the dog doing all the dancing at Dave Schwartzman's house. Dave says his left leg often feels tired and heavy. The reason is varicose veins.

Today, Dave is undergoing a new procedure to treat the problem. It's all done under local anesthesia. Vascular surgeon Doctor Ken Adcock uses ultrasound to go inside the vein with a catheter and then a radio frequency probe.

"Catheter now is heated to 120 degrees centigrade," said Dr. Ken Adcock.

Radio frequency energy is used to heat the vein from inside, causing the vein wall to contract and close. This re-directs the blood to other healthy veins.

The treatment takes just a few minutes and Dr. Adcock says it's also easier on the patient.

"It's a lot less traumatic to the surrounding tissues, a lot better as far as patient comfort," said Dr. Adcock.

Other varicose vein treatments, like laser or vein stripping, can leave bruises that can last for days. But with this procedure, Dr. Adcock says there's virtually no bruising or pain, and patients can return to regular activities in just 48 hours.

"I've been performing vascular surgeries for almost 25 years now and this is a quantum leap forward," said Dr. Adcock.

"I was surprised at how quick it took, and really pain free and that's not an exaggeration," said Dave Schwartzman. "It was pain free."

Two hours after his procedure, Dave is up and around at home. He's not ready to dance with little Amelia yet, but it won't be long. For now, she'll settle for a little peanut butter.

Doctors aren't sure what causes varicose veins. They do know the condition runs in families, and is more common in women and men.

Also varicose veins seem to occur more often in people who spend many hours a day on their feet.