What Is Sclerotherapy?
Sclerotherapy is a treatment to remove or diminish unsightly small blood vessels and spider veins. A solution is injected into each blood vessel causing inflammation to the cells that line the vein wall. External compression is applied, using an ace wrap or support stockings, causing the vein walls to seal together so that they may no longer transport blood. The body will break down and absorb the damaged vein.
What to Expect
Sclerotherapy offers a variety of benefits. The procedure is performed in our office and lasts approximately 30 minutes.
The injected veins may appear pink and inflamed. Often a purplish hue is noted over the top of larger veins. Most of these changes will fade over two or three days, however, a brownish stain may appear over larger veins that can take weeks or even months to resolve.
It is recommended to have sclerotherapy well in advance of important events as your legs will look worse before they look better. Many patients require subsequent treatments and are usually scheduled every 6-8 weeks to allow the body time to respond to treatment. The number of treatments needed varies from patient to patient, depending on the size and quantity of veins to be treated.
What Are the Benefits to Sclerotherapy?
- Cosmetic. This is, overall, a cosmetic procedure, and will do everything to eliminate the visual effects of varicose veins.
- Cost-effective. Because this is a cosmetic procedure, most insurance companies won’t cover it. However, it’s still a much cheaper option than having surgery. Which brings us to…
- No overnight hospital stay. Unlike surgery, you would most likely be able to return to your normal activities later that day. Of course, this is at the discretion of your doctor, but this is not a procedure that will leave you laid out for a week.
- No pain, no gain. Like mentioned above, this is overall considered to be a cosmetic procedure. However, there have been cases where Sclerotherapy has helped to relieve the aching symptom that is caused by spider veins.
What Are the Side Effects and Risks for Sclerotherapy?
- Hyperpigmentation: a light brown discoloration of the skin along the injected vein, may occur as well as some bruising. Larger veins may also develop a hard, lumpy feel, which is a collection of trapped blood and is not dangerous. Using a heating pad over these areas may help your body to absorb “old” blood quicker.
- Matting: The formation of new “spider” veins in the injected area, usually resolves in 3–12 months. If they do not fade, they may be reinjected or treated with cosmetic laser.
- Recurrence: incomplete resolution of the veins.
- Deep Vein Thrombosis: a blood clot in the deep veins. There is a very low incidence of this complication.
- Warning Signs: include excessive redness, swelling or persistent pain.
The Vein Center at Vascular Surgical Associates offers two sclerotherapy solutions:
- Hypertonic Saline: a very concentrated saline (salt) solution which irritates the lining of the vein and causes it to close. It is the most widely used solution and does not cause allergic reactions. Disadvantages are that it does sting and sometimes causes cramping during treatment. It can also cause staining that may or may not fade over time.
- Aclera (Polidocanol): A detergent-like solution that interferes with the cells of the inner lining of the vein, causing the vein wall to seal shut and close. This treatment does not sting or cause cramping, and studies have shown that there is minimal staining associated with Asclera. This is a premium product that is more expensive, but the added cost provides more comfort.
- Ultrasound Guided Sclerotherapy: This is a specialized procedure that treats advanced varicose veins hidden beneath the skin. In this procedure, a solution is injected into the abnormal veins using ultrasound guidance, causing the vein wall to collapse. The veins dissolve and disappear as the body gradually absorbs them.
See if Sclerotherapy Is Right for You!
As with all medical procedures or injections, cosmetic or otherwise, talk with your doctor about whether or not sclerotherapy is a viable option for you. It could be your one-way ticket back into a summer wardrobe that shows off your legs!