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What is the recovery like for vein stripping and ligation?

I have problem veins that I want to treat. I might get vein stripping or ligation, but I'm worried that the recovery will be too long. What's the recovery like for vein stripping and ligation? Are there treatments with shorter and more comfortable recoveries?


Doctors Answers (8)

Vein stripping and ligation are outdated procedures. The procedures are invasive and require general anesthesia. Recovery time can be weeks to months before you are back to full strength. Now, we get the same results with in-office vein closure under ultrasound guidance. We can place a radiofrequency catheter into your diseased vein and then seal the vein right in the office. You will walk out of the office and go back to your usual activity.

Stripping and ligation were the techniques used 20 years ago, but have been replaced by minimally invasive, more comfortable and more effective technology, including ultrasound-guided endovenous ablation. An endovenous ablation uses either laser or radio frequency (RF) to generate precise heating directly inside an anesthetized varicose vein with a nearly 100 percent efficiency in closing the vein permanently. Unlike the older stripping procedures, there is an immediate return to normal activities. I suggest getting a few more consultations and reading about endovenous ablation, as this is the current best choice in closing the saphenous trunk portion of varicose veins on the legs.

Most patients relate a recovery period of 2-4 weeks. Because of the high complication rate, we have stopped stripping, and instead use the VNUS closure procedure, which has a recovery period of about 1/2 day.

I would advise against vein stripping and ligation. With the advent of minimally invasive laser procedures for sealing the saphenous veins in an office setting, stripping is now an outmoded procedure. It requires a hospital/surgery center, anesthesia, and much a higher risk of complications and infection. Added to this is a lengthy recovery, often associated with a lot of pain. Endovenous laser ablation by an experienced board certified surgeon/vascular surgeon is one in the office under local "numbing," walk in and walk out. There is minimal discomfort and a return to full activity in a day or two. The bulging veins can be removed using microphlebectomy at the same setting, which is removal of sections of vein through tiny "puncture" incisions. Again, minimal discomfort and downtime.

Patients stopped having stripping and ligation procedures years ago in favor of thermal ablation (radiofrequency or laser). The latter more modern and widely available procedures cost less, leave no scars, and have no recovery or lost work time. Re-examine your options.

Vein stripping and ligation rarely is an appropriate treatment for saphenous vein insufficiency with the advent of more effective and less invasive techniques, such as endovenous thermal ablation with a laser or radiofrequency. Endovenous thermal ablation is very safe, usually is performed with local aneshteisa in the office setting, and most patients can engage in most normal physical activity the next day. Vein stripping usually is performed in a hospital or surgery center operating room with general anesthesia, and recovery takes about six weeks for most patients to resume normal physical activity. Endovenous thermal ablation costs a great deal less than vein stripping as well, but the greatest benefit is the much faster return to normal physical activity.

Stripping and ligation aren't used very often. There are still a few reasons that you may need to strip and ligate. A second opinion may help you decide.

Why would you do this when there are procedures with less recurrence, less recovery, lower risk of nerve injuries and other complications? I would look into endovenous laser ablation or radiofrequency ablation of the veins. These have lower recurrence than vein stripping, shorter recovery, lower risk of nerve injuries, and are usually done under local anesthetic in the office.

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