Our veins carry deoxygenated blood to our heart. In the legs, blood collects in veins just below the skin and then passes to deeper veins in our calf muscles. Those muscles pump blood towards the heart. Valves inside the veins stop the blood flowing backwards with gravity.
A specialist injects chemicals into the affected vein – this usually feels like a pinprick. An ultrasound machine helps guide the needle to deep veins.
This procedure uses heat to cause the vein to collapse and close.
Surgery usually involves removing a large vein called the superficial saphenous vein. A surgeon makes two or three small cuts in the leg and an incision in the groin. A thin plastic wire is threaded into the vein through the groin and the wire is fed along the vein. The wire is tied to the vein and the vein and wire are pulled out through the lower incision.
“A nerve runs close to the vein so you may be left with some numbness in the inside of the calf. There is also a low risk of blood clots,” says Dr Pond. “It causes bruising and you may need a week or two off work.”
The ClariVein system uses a small rotating catheter which is inserted into the vein, using ultrasound as a guide. As the catheter is withdrawn, it releases a chemical that causes the vein to collapse and close. The procedure can be performed in around 15 minutes. Patients may feel a ‘buzzing’ sensation in the leg during treatment. Bandages and compression stockings are worn for 24 hours and patients must walk for 15 minutes per day.
Kristy Cook, 36, used radiofrequency ablation to treat a painful varicose vein.
Photos: Getty Images