What are varicose veins?
Varicose veins are enlarged and twisted veins in your leg.
Varicose veins tend to run in families and are made worse by pregnancy and if you do a lot of standing.
Both legs contain a system of deep veins, which are buried within the muscles of your leg, and a system of superficial veins which run just underneath your skin.
Sometimes weaknesses in the walls of the superficial veins cause them to enlarge.
The result is a build-up of pressure in the veins, which bulge out as varicose veins.
What are the benefits of surgery?
Surgery should help prevent the symptoms and complications that varicose veins cause.
Are there any alternatives to varicose veins surgery?
Support stockings can often help the symptoms caused by varicose veins and reduce the risk of complications.
There are other treatments such as injections (foam sclerotherapy) and using radio-frequency or laser energy (endovenous ablation).
What does the operation involve?
The operation is usually performed under a general anaesthetic but a local anaesthetic can be used. The operation usually takes 20 minutes to 3 hours.
Your surgeon may disconnect the superficial veins from the deep veins through a cut on your groin or the back of your knee. They will probably make many small cuts, called avulsions or phlebectomies, along the length of the varicose veins where the veins have been marked.
The main varicose vein (the great or small saphenous vein) may need to be ‘stripped out’ using a special instrument.
How soon will I recover?
You should be able to go home the same day or the day after.
You should be able to return to work within a few days, depending on your type of work.
As long as your wounds have healed, you should be able to carry out normal activities as soon as you are comfortable.
Regular exercise should help you to return to normal activities as soon as possible. Before you start exercising, ask the healthcare team or your GP for advice.
Most people make a full recovery.
What complications can happen?
Some complications can be serious and can even cause death.
General complications of any operation
- Infection of the surgical site (wound)
- Unsightly scarring of your skin
- Blood clot in your leg
- Blood clot in your lung
Specific complications of this operation
- Developing a lump under your wound
- Numbness or a tingling sensation
- Damage to nerves
- Continued varicose veins
- Developing thread veins
- Swelling of your leg
- Major injury to the main arteries, veins or nerves of your leg