Sclerotherapy is a minimally invasive medical procedure used to treat varicose and spider veins, most commonly found on the legs, by collapsing them through the use of a solvent. Sclerotherapy has been used on patients since the 1930s with great success, producing increasingly effective medical, as well as cosmetic, results.
Individuals troubled by varicose veins, either because they find them unattractive or because the diseased veins are causing unpleasant and/or dangerous symptoms, may choose, in consultation with their physician, to undergo sclerotherapy. Some of the reasons a patient may desire, or a physician may recommend, sclerotherapy may include one or more of the following symptoms:
During sclerotherapy, a solution of saline and a sclerosant is injected into the damaged veins. This will cause irritation in the affected veins and produce their eventual collapse. During this procedure, the surgeon is guided through the use of ultrasound to ensure precision. When the weakened veins collapse, they will be reabsorbed into the body and other healthier veins will take their place in the circulatory system.
Sclerotherapy has proven to be a safe procedure and is performed outpatient in the doctor’s office. Typically, sclerotherapy is performed in less than an hour, although a varying number of injections may be required, depending on the number of veins involved. Patients do not require an anesthetic and usually report little or no discomfort during the procedure, only a mild burning sensation. In some instances, several sclerotherapy treatments may be necessary.
Although sclerotherapy is a safe procedure that has been successfully performed for many years, there are certain risks associated with any medical procedure. Certain minimal, temporary side effects are to be expected, including bruising and discoloration. More serious complications are rare, but may include:
Patients are able to return home shortly after sclerotherapy. Most can return to work and resume normal activities the next day, although exercise and strenuous activities are to be avoided a week or two. Compression bandages usually need to be worn for a week or so after the procedure. While it may take up to a month for the patient to see full results, some improvement is usually visible immediately.
In order to promote vascular health and to preserve the positive effects of the sclerotherapy, it is recommended that patients maintain a healthy weight and make exercise part of their daily routine.