New varicose vein treatment means fewer complications, faster recovery

Strong Memorial only hospital in region offering less-invasive technology

March 08, 2004

Strong Memorial Hospital is the first hospital in the Finger Lakes region to offer a new procedure to treat varicose veins. This less-invasive technology, which uses a catheter and radiofrequency energy to collapse veins and seal them shut, results in fewer complications, minimal to no scarring, as well as faster recovery time compared with the traditional vein-stripping technique.

The first case at Strong Memorial using the VNUS Closure technology was done in January, says vascular surgeon Cynthia Shortell, M.D., of the Division of Vascular Surgery at the University of Rochester Medical Center. Shortell and her colleague, vascular surgeon Jeffrey Rhodes, M.D., have performed more than 20 VNUS Closure surgeries to date, treating male and female patients ranging in age from 20 to 70.

“This is a real breakthrough in treating painful varicose veins,” Shortell says. “There are fewer complications, faster recovery, and nearly all patients suffering from varicose vein symptoms are appropriate for the VNUS Closure technology.”

The minimally invasive procedure is an alternative to the vein-stripping procedure that has been used for 40 years to treat superficial venous reflux, the cause of varicose veins.

Superficial venous reflux is a condition that allows the backward flow of blood in the saphenous vein, which runs through the leg from ankle to groin. The healthy saphenous vein uses valves that open and close to return oxygen-depleted blood to the heart, but when those valves become diseased due to, for example, genetic factors, pregnancy, excess weight or lack of exercise, it results in superficial venous reflux. It causes swelling and a pooling of blood in the legs, and the formation of varicose veins just under the surface of the skin due to increased pressure.

Vein-stripping is a more invasive technique that requires 1- to 3-inch incisions at the groin and the lower leg to remove diseased veins. There is a risk of bruising, swelling and scarring, and nerve damage can occur. Recovery can take up to six weeks.

Recovery time for patients who undergo surgery with the new VNUS Closure technology is just a few days. A catheter is inserted through one small puncture made below the knee and into the saphenous vein. The catheter tip is moved up the vein to the groin area, then slowly pulled out. As it retreats, radiofrequency energy creates heat within the vein, collapsing it and sealing it shut. In addition to the benefit of faster recovery, the procedure results in little to no bruising, swelling, scarring or nerve damage.

Once veins are removed, or collapsed using VNUS Closure technology, the body instinctively re-routes blood flow through healthy veins.

Strong Memorial vascular surgeons see about 250 patients each year for treatment of varicose veins.

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Karin Christensen
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