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Varicose Veins

What are varicose veins?
Varicose veins are swollen and bulging veins, which may or may not be visible under the surface of the skin. Although they are most often seen on the legs, varicose veins can appear elsewhere on the body. For many people, varicose veins are just a cosmetic issue. However, other people experience pain and other physical symptoms, which indicate a more serious underlying medical problem.

What causes varicose veins?
Varicose veins occur when blood vessel walls weaken and veins swell.

The veins are blood vessels. One-way valves in the veins direct blood flow towards the heart. When these valves become weak or damaged, blood pools and blood vessel walls stretch and weaken. Sometimes these veins swell and become visible through the skin. Other times, the problem vein is deeper within the leg and isn’t visible to the eye.

Symptoms of varicose veins

  • Enlarged or bulging veins
  • Aching legs and/or leg cramps
  • Swollen ankles and/or legs
  • Leg fatigue or “heaviness”
  • Skin that itches
  • Leg sores/ulcers that won’t heal

Risk factors for varicose veins

  • Age: Incidence increases with age, especially after age 50
  • Gender: More prevalent in women
  • Family history: About half of all people with varicose veins have a family history of them
  • Pregnancy, especially multiple pregnancies: Pregnancy puts extra pressure on leg veins
  • Prolonged sitting or standing: Makes the veins work harder to pump the blood back to the heart
  • Obesity: Extra or excess weight puts added pressure on veins, which can swell and allow blood to pool

How varicose veins are diagnosed
Varicose veins are diagnosed through physical examination. Imaging tests may be used to determine the extent of the problem. They may include an ultrasound, and rarely, an angiogram. An ultrasound uses sound waves to recreate the image. An angiogram uses dye, which is injected into the veins, to highlight areas where blood flow may be impaired.

Varicose vein treatment
We specialize in radiological “interventions,” which  are minimally invasive, outpatient procedures.  Interventional procedures are an alternative to traditional vein surgeries. 

We offer both radiofrequency ablation and endovenous ablation to treat varicose veins in patients who experience leg pain or other physical symptoms, such as leg fatigue, heaviness or swelling.  Our physician will decide which treatment is best for you.  The benefits of both procedures are similar.

Both radiofrequency ablation and endovenous ablation involve entering the vein with a tiny hollow tube, called a catheter, and applying heat energy to close or seal the injured vein so that it no longer has blood flow.  Blood is then redirected to other healthy veins. 

Although this outpatient procedure is performed with local anesthesia, sedation is available for those patients who request it.

Benefits of endovenous ablation include:

  • A quick return to normal activity (usually within 24 hours)
  • No scars or sutures
  • Fewer complications and less pain than traditional surgical ligation or vein stripping
  • Reduced chance for leg wounds, called venous stasis ulcers
  • Covered by most insurers for symptomatic patients

What is an interventional radiologist?
A radiologist is a physician. An interventional radiologist is a special type of radiologist who uses imaging techniques to diagnose -- and treat -- numerous diseases and conditions. They perform non-surgical procedures that are less invasive and pose fewer risks than traditional surgery. Recovery is generally quicker too. At Mallinckrodt Institute of Radiology (MIR), interventional radiologists who are experts in venous disease treat varicose veins.

Why choose Mallinckrodt Institute of Radiology for your varicose vein treatment
It’s often difficult to distinguish the difference between a cosmetic vein problem and a truly medical vein problem. We have the experience and expertise to know the difference and provide the best treatment.
We have assembled a team of nationally-recognized interventional radiologists who specialize in vein problems. We have more experience in interventional catheter procedures than anyone else in the region. And because we are associated with an academic center – Washington University School of Medicine – our patients have access to the newest and most advanced treatments to address varicose veins.

Insurance and Appointments
We accept most major insurance plans. Appointments are readily available.

Related physicians
Our team of dedicated vein specialists are:
• Naganathan Mani, MD
• Suresh Vedantham, MD
• Gretchen Foltz, MD
• Seung Kwon Kim, MD
• Michael Darcy, MD

For an appointment, call:  314-362-2900

 “General Questions” – see link below.

Learn more about Varicose Vein treatment