Thousands of patients suffering from painful or unsightly varicose veins could benefit from a new treatment that will significantly reduce their risk of nerve damage while also minimising post operative pain, bruising and recovery times.
Traditional treatments for varicose veins involve either open surgery, performed under general anaesthetic, or laser treatment. Both of these conventional forms, while effective, carry a risk of nerve damage leading to numbness or very painful sensitive patches in a patient’s leg. Studies which have looked at nerve injury following open surgery have put incidents of nerve damage at 25 per cent[i]. Laser treatments fare better but still carry a risk between 0.7 per cent and 2.4 per cent[ii]. The causes of damage in both these procedures stem from the close contact made with the nerve bundles either via invasive surgery or intense heat.
Consultant Vascular Surgeons Eddie Chaloner and Aaron Sweeney at BMI The Blackheath Hospital in London are the first surgeons in the UK to offer the new ClariVein procedure. ClariVein removes the danger of nerve damage as it is minimally invasive and non-thermal, meaning that the nerve bundles are never placed at risk. During the ClariVein procedure, a rotating catheter is inserted into a patient’s leg to remove the lining of the offending vein while a drug is administered causing the vein to collapse in on itself. The catheter is then removed and the small incision closed. The whole procedure for both legs takes no more than 15 minutes in the operating theatre and does not require multiple painful injections of anaesthetic into the leg.
“This procedure really is a turning point in the treatment of a condition that is so very prevalent in the UK population. The common misconception of varicose veins is that they only affect old or obese individuals, this is simply not true. They can affect women of all ages and are particularly common after pregnancy,” commented Mr Chaloner. “In my experience, patients have so far found the procedure to be completely pain free and compatible with their busy lifestyles. Patients so far have not required pain killers after surgery and have resumed normal activity almost immediately. ClariVein has so far delivered both excellent clinical and cosmetic results for all my patients.”
Varicose veins affect 30 per cent of the UK population and are characterised by swollen superficial veins that look lumpy and dark blue or purple through a patient’s skin. The visible symptoms are caused by a loss of elasticity in the vein’s one-way valves which under normal function are designed to help the upward flow of blood on its return to the heart. When one or more of these valves fails to function correctly, blood is able to flow back down into the leg in the wrong direction and tends to overfill and distend branches of superficial veins under the skin. Over a period of time, this additional pressure of blood causes the veins to stretch, bulge and become visible.
Peter Harris Executive Director at The Blackheath Hospital commented: “We are very proud to have two consultants who are offering the latest treatment for a condition that can be extremely unsightly and extremely painful for its sufferers. We are confident that this new procedure will become common place in the years to come. This new procedure offers patients a treatment that fits perfectly around their lives while reducing the associated risks ”
[i] European Journal of Vascular & Endovascular Surgery – December 2005 30(6):654-8
[ii] Journal of Vascular Surgery - October 2008 - 48(4):947-52