Sclerotherapy is a medical procedure used to eliminate spider veins and reticular veins. Sclerotherapy involves an injection of a solution (generally a salt solution) directly into the vein. The solution irritates the lining of the blood vessel, causing it to swell and stick together, and the blood to clot. Over time, the vessel turns into scar tissue that fades from view.
Sclerotherapy is a well-proven procedure and has been in use since the 1930s.
Studies have shown that as many as 50%-80% of injected veins may be eliminated with each session of sclerotherapy. Less than 10% of the people who have sclerotherapy do not respond to the injections at all. In these instances, different solutions can be tried. Although this procedure works for most patients, there are no guarantees for success.
In general, spider veins respond in three to six weeks, and larger veins respond in three to four months. If the veins respond to the treatment, they will not reappear. However, new veins may appear at the same rate as before. If needed, you may return for injections.
What is sclerotherapy?
Sclerotherapy is a treatment for the removal of spider veins and smaller varicose veins. Veins are injected with a sterile chemical sclerant, which irritates the vessel’s lining, making it become inflamed, harden, and eventually fade away completely. Blood circulation is carried out through healthy veins located deeper within the body, so the outward appearance and sometimes pain associated with the problem veins is significantly reduced.
This information is intended only as an introduction to this procedure. This information should not be used to determine whether you will have the procedure performed nor does it guarantee results of your elective surgery. Further details regarding surgical standards and procedures should be discussed with your physician.
What are spider veins?
Spider veins, or telangiectasias, are tiny veins that constantly look dilated. Caused by weak vascular walls and inefficient circulation, spider veins cause no health problems but many people feel they look unappealing. Spider veins can sometimes resemble a spider: a large dark spot with thin veins radiating out of it, or they may appear in other patterns and variations in different places in the body. Frequently occurring in the legs, spider veins can be dark or lighter shades of blue, purple, or red.
How is the procedure performed?
Using a very fine needle a solution is carefully injected into the vein. Since the injection needle is so small, patients often feel little pain and do not need any anesthesia. The injection process typically is complete in just 30 to 45 minutes. A minor stinging or burning sensation is common during and right after the injections are made, but is short lived. After the treatment is finished, a bandage will be applied and we strongly recommend the use of compression or support hose for at least a few days.
What happens after the sclerotherapy treatment?
Any discomfort can be easily managed with over the counter pain medications, and is alleviated by the use of compression bandages or hose. Some mild bruising, itching, and swelling at the injection site is normal, but otherwise side effects are uncommon and short in duration.
What are the side effects of sclerotherapy?
Because the procedure is minimally-invasive, very few side effects are associated with it. Some minor itching and burning immediately after the treatment is normal and quickly fades. In rare cases, allergic reactions, infection at the injection site, or complications associated with poor injection technique are possible. The potential for side effects can be reduced by choosing an experienced, reputable specialist to administer the procedure.
Where is the procedure done?
Since sclerotherapy is minimally-invasive and almost pain-free, it can be performed at a doctor’s office or other outpatient clinic. Anesthesia is not needed and complications are infrequent. Although sclerotherapy is very safe, it is considered to be so only when administered by a professional.
Can sclerotherapy be used to treat varicose veins?
Because they require more sclerant injected than is safe, large varicose veins are not treated with sclerotherapy. Small to medium sized veins respond best to sclerotherapy procedures. There are many other techniques available for the effective treatment of larger vein problems, which you can discuss with your vascular specialist.
How many sclerotherapy treatments are required?
The number of sessions required depends on the depth, number, and size of the veins being treated. While some patients are happy with the results after just one treatment, others may desire further injections for the optimal effect. These follow up treatments should be spaced at least four weeks apart so that the affects of the previous treatment can be accurately evaluated before injecting more. Patients can determine the amount of treatments they may need and the cost associated with them by discussing their situation with their specialist.
Do I have to limit activity after the treatment?
It is important to walk regularly to encourage good circulation after you have had sclerotherapy. You should not participate in any strenuous activity for the initial days after your treatment.
How long is each session?
The injection portion of each session takes on average only 30 to 45 minutes to complete, though this can vary depending on the size and extent of the treatment area.
Can anyone undergo sclerotherapy?
Nearly everyone with unsightly spider veins is eligible for treatment, unless they are pregnant or breastfeeding. Also, individuals with skin infections, uncontrolled diabetes, a history of deep vein thrombosis, and those who are taking anticoagulants or corticosteroids should not have sclerotherapy. If you are unsure of your candidacy, consult a specialist for a personal evaluation.
Is there any preparation required before the treatment?
There is no formal regimen for the preparation of sclerotherapy, although doctors will recommend that patients stop taking aspirin and smoking during the few days before the treatment.