Foam sclerotherapy is a medical procedure used to treat varicose veins. Varicose veins result from weakened valves which keep the veins from functioning properly and allow blood to pool in the legs. Varicose veins may be not only unattractive but medically problematic. During foam sclerotherapy, a sclerosant solution is injected into the affected veins, causing their eventual collapse. These damaged veins will be absorbed by the body and blood flow will naturally be rerouted through other, healthy veins. We invite you to contact us today to schedule your appointment with Dr. Rami to learn how we can help you!
We offer the latest innovative procedures adapted to sophisticated medical imaging technology, to achieve optimal diagnostic and therapeutic treatments.
What is Sclerotherapy?
Sclerotherapy was first developed in the 1930s as a solution for spider veins, the red, purple, and blue clusters of thin lines that appear on the legs as we age. A sclerosant solution, based in saline, is injected directly into the spider vein with a tiny needle. The solution irritates the vein wall, causing it to close off and eventually be absorbed by the body.
What is Foam Sclerotherapy?
Traditional sclerotherapy wasn’t effective on larger varicose veins, as the blood tended to dilute the solution too much once injected. But in the 1990s, a Spanish surgeon found that mixing the sclerosant solution with gas to create a foam made the solution much more effective for treating varicose veins. This is because the foam pushes the blood away and the solution can then completely fill the vein without being diluted. This allows the solution to interact fully with the vein wall, causing it to close off.
The Foam Sclerotherapy Procedure
To ensure precision, foam sclerotherapy is performed with the aid of ultrasound imaging. The affected veins are injected with a foamed sclerosant solution, which causes the veins to eventually collapse and be absorbed into the bloodstream. This safe procedure can be performed outpatient, in the doctor’s office and takes less than an hour to complete. Anesthesia is not needed for foam sclerotherapy. After the skin is cleaned with an antiseptic solution, the sclerosant is injected into the affected veins with a very fine needle. The number of injections per session varies based on the number and length of the damaged veins. After the sclerotherapy procedure, cotton balls and compression tape are applied to the injection site. Patients usually report only a mild burning sensation during the treatment.
Is it Safe?
The mixing of gas with the sclerosant solution has proven to be completely safe, without any difference in the body’s reaction than to the purely liquid sclerosant. This is because the air is rapidly absorbed from the veins, leaving the solution the same as if it were directly injected without the gas. The gas that makes the solution foam, however, pushes the blood away so that the solution can fully interact with the vein wall. Plus, because the blood does not dilute the foam sclerosant, far less solution needs to be injected into the vein to obtain the same effect.
Does foam sclerotherapy really work on Varicose Veins?
Research on the success of foam sclerotherapy on varicose veins shows an 80 to 90 percent effectiveness of the veins being permanently occluded five years after the procedure. This is a similar success rate to laser or radiofrequency methods. Foam sclerotherapy is an excellent solution for small to moderate-sized varicose veins. Patients with extensive, large varicose veins usually still require laser or radiofrequency ablation. However, before proceeding with any type of sclerotherapy, patients should be evaluated by a vein specialist and have an ultrasound examination of the affected limb(s) to determine the underlying cause of the varicose veins and/or spider veins. The ultrasound exam may show problems with the vein valves, which may need to be treated with ablation prior to sclerotherapy to achieve the most optimal, long-term result. Dr. Rami will be able to discuss this in more detail with you.
How long does the treatment last?
Using ultrasound guidance, Dr. Rami injects the foam sclerosant directly into the varicose vein. He checks to be sure the foam has entered the vein and then delivers an additional few injections down the vein to be sure the entire vein has been treated. The whole treatment usually takes just 20-30 minutes.
How many treatments are required?
Depending on the number, size, location and distribution of varicose or spider veins, treatment sessions can vary from one to several. On average, 2-4 sessions may be indicated.
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Recovery From Foam Sclerotherapy
After foam sclerotherapy, most patients can immediately return work and regular activities the same day. Exercise and other strenuous activities, however, should be avoided for 7 to 10 days. Compression bandages may need to be worn for a week to 10 days after the procedure, and some patients may experience mild bruising and discoloration following sclerotherapy; but these side effects usually subside within a few days. The results of foam sclerotherapy are usually fully visible after 3 to 6 weeks. To preserve the results of sclerotherapy, patients should maintain an active, healthy lifestyle after the procedure.
Is there swelling after?
After your session, we wrap your leg with a bandage to keep the veins compressed so that they do not attempt to re-fill with blood with the pressure of standing. This bandage also helps prevent any minor swelling at the injection sites. These bandages are usually worn for a few days and the patient then transitions to compression stockings for one week. This compression usually keeps swelling to a minimum. There can be some small lumps along the vein line, but these resolve over several weeks as the body begins to absorb the now-unused vein. There can be some minor bruising at the injection sites, as well.
Are there any risks?
While sclerotherapy is a safe procedure, there are certain risks associated with any procedure of this type. Rare complications may include: nerve damage, phlebitis, deep vein thrombosis, infection or failure of the procedure. Most patients are very satisfied with the results of this treatment.