Wednesday, 25 March 2009

Stripping varicose veins - who would have it done?

In the last week I have seen many patients who have re-grown their varicose veins after having had them stripped. It is unbelievable that in this day and age, surgeons still strip veins and patients still let them - and what shocked me more is that a recent study showed that despite our research, about 80% of surgeons still perform this barbaric (and often useless) procedure Click here for paper.

Tying of varicose veins was invented in the 1890's by Trendelenberg - and stripping the veins away was added the the procedure to make it more complete. Unfortunately, although it would seem logical to "remove the vein" to stop it coming back, this isn't what happens.

Unlike organs, such as the gallbladder, which you can remove permanently, veins are part of the body's connective tissue. This means that they are involved in the healing process. Thus when you injure yourself, the skin and connective tissue heals.

When a vein is stripped away, the body doesn't know it has been taken away by a surgeon - it thinks that the body has been damaged - and so it tries to grow the vein back again.

Prize winning research by us at The Whiteley Clinic, which was published in 2007 Click here for paper, shows that almost a quarter of people start growing the stripped veins back again within one year - and we are just about to present our latest research showing that well over three-quarters of people have grown the whole vein back again 5 years after stripping!!!

Put against this, we have already shown that 5 years after closing the same veins with heat using Whiteley Clinic procedures, NONE of the treated veins have re-opened.

With such a huge difference at 5 years between stripping (over 75% veins regrowing) and closing the veins with heat using Whiteley Clinic protocols (0% reopening), it would probably be unethical to perform a randomised study to re-prove the obvious - and which patients if told about the difference, would ever let anyone perform a stripping procedure on them?

It is very hard to understand why so many surgeons still offer stripping. Presumably most have not learnt how to perform the new techniques such as EVLA (endovenous laser ablation), VNUS Closure FAST, RFiTT etc.

It is even harder to understand why patients, with such ready access to information on the Internet, both through simple sites such as and as well as scientific papers Click here for paper allow surgeons to offer such damaging surgery with such poor long term results.

Of course there is no law against this, nor is the doctor doing wrong, provided each patient has been fully informed of the alternatives to their stripping - even if the surgeon does not offer the alternatives themselves - and they are satisfied that stripping is really the best for them.

For my part, we have produced proof that stripping causes regrowth of the veins, and our alternatives have much smaller scars, allow return to work quicker, are under local anaesthetic and so allow walk-in walk-out procedures AND stop the treated vein opening up again in the future.

Certainly the patients that seek us out at The Whiteley Clinic having got their varicose veins back again having had stripping elsewhere have seen the problems that stripping can cause.

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