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Prosthetic Valve in Germany Treats Chronic Venous Insufficiency

At the Fraunhofer Institute for Manufacturing Engineering and Automation in Germany, researchers created an artificial venous valve that can be used to treat chronic venous insufficiency, a condition caused by dysfunctional valves. The artificial valve replacements, made from a strong but flexible plastic called polycarbonate-urethane, are currently being manufactured and may be the start of a revolution in vein treatment as the product is mass produced and distributed worldwide.

Chronic venous insufficiency, also called CVI or venous reflux, is a widespread condition marked by the leg veins’ inability to direct oxygen-deficient blood flow back to the heart. This occurs as a result of damaged valves in the legs which cause blood to pool and to form blood clots. Living with pooled blood in your lower extremities can lead to large, bulging varicose veins, painful open ulcers and an excess fluid condition called edema. CVI treatment is usually performed with anti-inflammatory medicines and diuretics. Compression stockings also are recommended for patients with venous reflux, although as sole treatment, stockings will not be sufficient. In extreme cases, the patient has to undergo medical procedures designed to remove the damaged veins, which are sometimes quite invasive. Germany’s new prosthetic valve procedure is sure to be a welcome alternative to anybody seeking out treatment for chronic venous insufficiency.

Chronic venous insufficiency, if left unchecked, can cause a deadly medical complication called pulmonary embolism. Pulmonary embolism happens when a blood clot detaches from where it is formed and is carried by natural blood flow to the blood vessels located in the lungs, causing a blockage. A person can die quite suddenly if this blockage is not promptly removed or dissolved. For most cases of blood clotting in the deep veins, physicians will refer patients to the emergency room.

Despite the dangers of pulmonary embolism, it is estimated that less than 10 percent of patients actually require surgical treatment for their vein conditions. Procedures such as vein ligation and vein stripping, ambulatory phlebectomy and bypass surgery are all effective but fairly invasive options. With the new prosthetic valve, patients now have another choice.

Because of the strong but flexible material used by German manufacturers, the prosthetic valve can be spliced very thinly and sewn into the lining of the blood vessel causing problems. The valves can be installed in a damaged vein using a catheter inserted through a puncture made in the skin, which would make the procedure less invasive. So far, the product is still entering early-stage clinical trials and is not widely available yet.

CVI is a serious condition and treatment can become difficult as it progresses. The development of artificial venous valves allows sufferers to have a better chance of undergoing treatment before it leads to more grave situations. Symptoms of chronic venous insufficiency are:

  • Puffiness in the ankles and lower legs
  • Tired legs
  • Varicose veins
  • Leathery skin on the legs
  • Itchiness on the legs
  • Flaking on the legs
  • Venous stasis ulcers

CVI can is more likely to develop in obese patients and tobacco smokers. Chronic venous deficiency is common with people who are 40 years old and older. Other health situations could also cause CVI, such as cancer, heart disease and certain respiratory conditions. Find a doctor immediately if you think you need treatment for a blood clot.

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