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 standing up a lot.
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).
What does the operation involve?
The operation can be performed under a general anaesthetic but a local anaesthetic is often used.The operation usually takes 20 minutes to an hour, depending on the number of veins that need to be removed.
Your surgeon will make several small cuts, called avulsions or phlebectomies, along the length of the varicose veins where the veins have been marked.
How can I prepare myself for the operation?
If you smoke, stopping smoking now may reduce your risk of developing complications and will improve your long-term health.
Try to maintain a healthy weight. You have a higher risk of developing complications if you are overweight.
Regular exercise should help to prepare you for the operation, help you to recover and improve your long-term health. Before you start exercising, ask the healthcare team or your GP for advice.
If you are on the oral contraceptive pill or hormone replacement therapy, you should consider stopping the tablets 4 weeks before the operation. This is to reduce the risk of a deep vein thrombosis (DVT). If relevant, you will need to use alternative contraception. Your surgeon can discuss the options with you. If you do not want to stop the tablets then you may need to have injections or tablets for a week after surgery, in order to thin the blood and reduce the chance of a DVT.
Speak to the healthcare team about any vaccinations you might need to reduce your risk of serious illness while you recover. When you come into hospital, practise hand washing and wear a face covering when asked.
What complications can happen?
Some complications can be serious and can even cause death.
General complications of any operation
- bleeding during or after the operation
- infection of the surgical site (wound)
- allergic reaction to the equipment, materials or medication
- blood clot in your leg
- blood clot in your lung
- chest infection
Specific complications of this operation
- developing a lump under the wound, if your surgeon made a cut in your groin
- 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
Consequences of this procedure
- unsightly scarring of your skin
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.
Varicose veins are a common problem and can lead to complications if left untreated. Support stockings can help to control symptoms but will not remove the varicose veins.IMPORTANT INFORMATION
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Last reviewed: September 2023