What is sclerotherapy?
Sclerotherapy is a medical procedure used to treat varicose veins and “spider veins.” During sclerotherapy, the physician injects a solution directly into the affected vein. The sclerosing agent irritates the walls of the vessel, causing it to collapse. Over time, the vessel turns into scar tissue that fades from view.
Ultrasound Guided Foam Sclerotherapy (UGFS)
Foam sclerotherapy is a new form of delivering the sclerosing agent that allows us to treat larger varicose veins that might be unsuccessfully treated with conventional sclerotherapy. The foam solution has the consistency of ‘shaving cream’, which improves treatment in two distinct ways. First, the foam displaces blood within the vein, permitting the full strength of the sclerosing agent to be in direct contact with the vein wall for an extended period of time without any dilution effects. Second, the foam is visible via ultrasound imaging and can be easily tracked and guided to the source of the venous problem. For large veins, foam is used with conjunction of the ultrasound machine.
How is sclerotherapy done?
Sclerotherapy is performed in a doctor’s office. The treatment area is cleansed and the solution is injected directly into the blood vessel, using very fine needles. The number of veins injected in one session is variable, depending on the size and location of the veins, and the patient’s overall medical condition. The number of treatment sessions required varies from patient to patient, depending on the number of veins treated, ability to heal, and the level of cosmetic perfection desired.
How successful is sclerotherapy?
Sclerotherapy works well for most patients. It is estimated that as many as 50 percent to 80 percent of injected veins may be eliminated with each injection session. A few (less than 10 percent) of the people who have sclerotherapy do not respond to the injections at all. In these instances, different solutions or a different method, such as laser therapy, may be tried. UGFS is particularly good for patients who have developed recurrent varicous veins after previous surgery and for patients with chronic venous leg ulcers secondary to varicose veins. Unlike varicose veins surgery, UGFS can also be performed on people who are anticoagulated without having to stop or reduce their warfarin.
In general, spider veins respond to treatment in 3 to 6 weeks, and larger veins respond in 3 to 4 months. If the veins respond to the treatment, usually they will not reappear. However, new veins may appear over time. If needed, you may return for injections.
How will I know if I am a candidate for sclerotherapy?
Before the procedure, you will have an initial consultation with our vascular specialist who will evaluate your eligibility for sclerotherapy. You are not eligible for sclerotherapy if you are pregnant, breastfeeding, or are bedridden. You must wait at least three months after delivery before you can be considered for this procedure. You can have sclerotherapy if you take birth control pills. If you have had a blood clot in the past, your eligibility will be determined on an individual basis, and will depend on the extremity and the cause of the clot.
What happens after the treatment?
After the treatment you will be able to drive yourself home. You may resume your regular activities and are encouraged to walk. You will be instructed to wear compression stockings to “compress” the treated vessels.
For 48 hours after the procedure, please follow these guidelines: Avoid aspirin, ibuprofen and other anti-inflammatory medications. Do not take hot baths or sit in a whirlpool or sauna. You may take showers, but the water should be cooler than usual. Wash the injection sites with a mild soap and lukewarm water. Do not apply hot compresses or any form of heat to the injected areas. Avoid direct exposure to sunlight (including sun tanning and tanning beds).