Deborah Marsh is a busy realtor, but today she's at Lubbock Radiology signing up for new legs. She says for the last year her varicose veins have gotten increasingly unruly.
"My legs swell up real bad. I have real bad varicose veins and they look terrible," says Marsh.
Now a new procedure will allow her varicose veins to quickly disappear. Remember the traditional method is "stripping" the veins, which would have called for two incisions and a hook to pull the vein through. "It is bloody and tended to be long recovery. Ugly cosmetic results because have incision to heal," says Dr. Brian Bruening, a Radiologist.
Dr. Bruening says half of all the adults in this country are just like Deborah, hiding varicose veins under their pants legs or a long skirt. If you don't have them yet, but someone in your family does, there's a 75% chance you'll get them too. It happens when some of the veins in the leg get stretched or swollen. It's through these veins that blood is supposed to go back to the heart, but sometimes, it spills the wrong way into superficial veins closer to the skin.
There is no incision in this procedure. Doctors use a laser guided by ultrasound. First, you find the bulging vein then, a tiny wire inserted into the vessel clears a path so that later, a sheath carrying laser fibers can follow along that wire. Eventually, the laser heats its way through the bulging vein so that it collapses and blood flow returns to the main road up to the heart after all.
Deborah smiled through the whole procedure. Her leg was anesthetized so instead of pain, there's just a feeling of warmth. In less than an hour, it's done. When the light goes on and the sheet is lifted, the lumpy varicose vein is gone.
Deborah will have to wear compression hose for a week or so, but she was able to walk out with a smile, knowing that when the bruising heels there will be no more blue lines to hide.
You may be sore for a few days, but most people can return to their normal routine in a day or two after this procedure. By the way, three Lubbock doctors are using the laser now to get ride of varicose veins, so it's becoming more widely available. It costs about $3,000, but since it is a medical condition, I'm told that it is covered by insurance.
The Lubbock doctors already using the laser to erase varicose veins include Dr. Brian Bruening, a radiologist, Dr. Brian Norkiewicz, a surgeon, and Dr. Sandra Dickerson, also a surgeon.