Font Size: Increase | Decrease

What is vein ligation and vein stripping?

Vein Ligation

Images courtesy of

Vein ligation is a form of vein surgery for the treatment of varicose veins and some diseases such as venous reflux. Surgeons who specialize in vein surgery typically perform varicose vein ligation. The procedure is usually performed on the legs because swollen veins develop in the lower extremities more so than in any other area. This tendency is in part due to inhibited blood flow in the lower half of the body and blood valves that weaken with age. Since vein ligation is an invasive surgery, it is usually only used when bulging varicose veins are causing intense pain or ulcers. It is not used for spider vein removal.

During a varicose vein ligation procedure, swollen veins or other veins that are damaged in any way are tied up and prevented from engaging in their normal vascular function. The actual process of tying up a vessel at a particular location is technically the ligation of the vein. Non-functional parts of the vein are then removed during a process called vein stripping. Vein stripping occurs often when there are many damaged or swollen veins being treated at once, for example if a multitude of varicose veins or spider veins have clumped together in a large tangle. During vein ligation, the attending surgeon may also close off improperly working valves, which encourages blood to flow through healthy veins below the damaged valve. Removal of the entire vein is unnecessary when improperly working valves are closed off in this manner. Moreover, a vein doctor can only remove saphenous, or superficial, veins because they are not primary to blood circulation. For more information about saphenous vein ligation, please ask a vein doctor for a personal consultation.

Most of the time patients have to undergo vein ligation in order to treat varicose veins that are causing pain or ulcers. There are other, less invasive procedures than minor surgery with vein ligation, available to treat varicose veins that do not cause pain. These include sclerotherapy and minimally invasive endovenous laser treatment. Only in severe cases is surgery usually considered as an option to produce effective results. But in the event that it is necessary, varicose vein ligation has been known to improve leg cramps and to reduce the development of bleeding ulcers associated with severe varicose veins.

This type of vein surgery procedure is only minor, so vein ligation recovery is usually well-tolerated. Patients do not stay in a hospital overnight and anesthesia will prevent them from feeling any pain during the procedure. Small incisions are made to give the surgeon access to blood vessels that need to be redirected or removed. When working on swollen veins, the surgeon will make a small incision into the blood vessel in order to relieve pressure before beginning the ligation process. Doing so will also prevent the vein from swelling in the future.

Whether you are undergoing varicose vein treatment for medical or cosmetic purposes, it is important to check with your insurance company to make sure that the procedure is covered. You may need to show proof that you’ve tried alternative treatments, such as weight loss and compression hosiery, before getting approved. For more information about varicose vein treatment with vein surgery, please contact a vein specialist listed in your area.

Find Vein Doctors

Enter zip code to find vein doctors near you.

Ask a Doctor

Answers to Your Medical Questions from Local Doctors

Ask a Doctor
  • It's FREE
  • It's easy
  • It's anonymous