Audrey Mendenhall, RT,RDMS,RVT, RDCS
Sound Health Imaging
Varicose veins develop when the valves in the vessel fail. Veins contain one-way valves that help circulate blood back to the heart. When the valves stop functioning properly, blood begins to pool in the legs. Congested veins dilate to accommodate the excess blood and become ropy and bulging.
Many people seek treatment for their varicose veins because of their unsightly appearance or they may have symptoms of varying degrees. These include burning or itching, aching leg pain, leg cramps, heaviness, pressure or swelling in the legs. In the worst-case scenario the congestion in the skin tissue, over time, may cause the skin to weaken and actually form ulcers.
60% of Americans suffer from varicose veins to some degree. This condition tends to run in families and is more prevalent in women due to hormones and pregnancies. Obesity is another contributing risk factor for developing varicose veins as are occupations that requires frequent or prolonged standing.
In the past, treatment for varicose veins has been limited to surgical removal and stripping of the vein. This procedure required general anesthesia and at least a couple of weeks of recovery. With the new laser treatment, the procedure is performed on an outpatient basis with local anesthesia and only a mild sedative. Many patients have the procedure on Friday, rest over the weekend, return for their post procedure ultrasound on Monday, and resume their regular activities on Tuesday.
The laser treatment is performed using a laser fiber which is inserted into the diseased vein through a catheter. The laser energy is then delivered through the fiber which causes the vein to close as the fiber is gradually removed. The vein that is closed by the laser fiber is absorbed by the body over time. This process causes the blood to be re-routed to the healthy veins to be returned to the heart.
Ultrasound is utilized during 3 aspects of the process. Initially, ultrasound is used to confirm the diagnosis of valve insufficiency. In this pre-treatment exam, ultrasound is used to map the anatomy, both normal and variant, and the diseased pathways. Ultrasound imaging is also an integral tool used during the laser procedure. It is used to locate the best access site, determine placement of the laser guide wire and guide the placement of the local anesthesia that is used during the procedure. Finally, ultrasound is used post-treatment to confirm the resolution and obliteration of the varicose vein within a few days.
Given the tremendous advantages in efficacy, cost and recovery time, this new procedure is bound to be the wave of the future for treating patients with varicose veins. This treatment is now available for the first time in Helena. For more information please contact Sound Health Imaging, Inc. at 442-6356.