7 ways to prepare for a varicose vein procedure

Consultant Vascular Surgeon, Mr Nicholas Wilson from BMI Sarum Road Hospital, shares his advice on the steps you can take to prepare for your varicose vein procedure.

1. Timing is everything

When planning your procedure, it's worth leaving at least four to six weeks after the procedure before a beach holiday or a special occasion when you may want your legs to look their best.

There’s usually some bruising or staining for several weeks after the procedure, but this can sometimes last for a few months. Your consultant will most likely suggest a further appointment several weeks after the procedure to check that it has been successful and that you are happy with the results. Sometimes a further procedure may be recommended – so plan in extra time, just in case.

What about flying?

If you've had radiofrequency ablation or sclerotherapy, it’s usually advisable to avoid flying long haul (more than four hours) for at least four weeks after the procedure.1 However, your consultant vascular surgeon can advise on when flying is most appropriate for you.

It's also important to remember that there may be a delay between seeing your vein specialist and having the treatment, so make sure you start planning well in advance.

2. Make the most of your consultations

Your initial consultation is a great opportunity to ask any questions you may have and to find out further information. 

Here are 5 tips for your consultations
  • At your first appointment, make sure your consultant is aware of any other medical conditions you may have and any medication you’re taking - particularly any blood thinning drugs or anticoagulants.
  • If you don't understand the treatment recommendations, make sure to ask any questions you may have.
  • If you have any further questions, contact your consultant’s secretary in advance, or raise them at your pre-admission visit.
  • If you’ve been given an information sheet, read it carefully so that you know what to expect around the time of the procedure.
  • Be sure to clarify all costs involved and ensure that any medical insurance you may have will cover these. You should receive a breakdown of likely costs before you see your specialist.

3. Ask for help 

It’s a good idea to arrange for someone to take you home after the procedure, even if it was performed with local anaesthetic. It may be worth having a friend or family member to help with everyday chores, particularly if you have young children, as your leg(s) may feel a little bruised and you’ll have a compression bandage or stocking to wear.

4. Factor in some down time

Depending on the extent of your procedure (one leg or two, lots of veins or not so many, type of surgery/injections), you may be less mobile than usual for the first few days after the procedure.

You may need some time off work, depending on your occupation. Ask your consultant how much time would be advisable and clear this with your employer. Don’t forget to obtain a certificate from the hospital or clinic if required.

What to avoid before and after treatment

Before your surgery, you should avoid:

  • Moisturising your legs 2-3 days before the procedure
  • Wearing tight clothes, e.g. drainpipe jeans

  • After your surgery, you should avoid:

  • Flying – short haul and long haul
  • Strenuous activity 
  • Driving for at least 48 hours after treatment1

  • 5. Exercise

    Alcohol

    You can plan to do light but frequent exercise, such as ordinary walking, from the first day after the procedure. Four or five 10-15 minute walks per day for the first fortnight is a good target to aim for.

    For most people who lead a reasonably active life, this is a normal day. More extreme exercise such as tennis, running, hard cycling and gym workouts are better avoided for the first two to three weeks.

    6. Be prepared for the healing process

    After the procedure, you’re likely to have some numb patches on your leg(s) where the skin nerves are a little bruised. This usually settles, but may take a few months.

    It’s usual to have some thickening or lumpiness where the veins have been removed or blocked. This often lasts for two to three months after the procedure. Any small wounds will generally disappear by about three months.

    7. Expect some discomfort

    Most varicose vein procedures cause mild temporary discomfort depending on the technique used and the extent of the varicose veins.

    Generally, the treatments are easy to cope with and require only mild painkillers (if any) for a few days following the procedure.

    There is often some mild tenderness for several weeks where veins have been removed or blocked. Mild anti-inflammatory drugs can be helpful.

    How do I choose the right varicose vein treatment for me?

    Several factors determine what treatment your consultant may recommend, including:

    • The reason for seeking vein treatment
    • The outcome you are hoping to achieve
    • The extent, anatomy and severity of the varicose veins
    • Other health conditions and medications

    Vein treatments can include:

    Conventional surgery

    • Endovascular surgical techniques
    • Injection techniques

    Endovenous techniques

    More extensive varicose veins with underlying trunk vein leakiness can be treated with endovenous techniques such as endovenous laser ablation (EVLT) or radiofrequency ablation (RF ablation).

    This usually involves just one treatment session only and can be performed under local anaesthetic with or without sedation, or general anaesthetic.

    Sclerotherapy

    Less extensive problems can be treated with sclerotherapy or foam sclerotherapy techniques, but multiple treatment sessions may be required and the time to achieve a good cosmetic result is sometimes more prolonged. 

    Choosing the right treatment is determined by several different factors, but the extent and anatomy of the veins are probably the most important. Sometimes a combination of different techniques works well.

    There is no shortage of information and advice available, but your vein specialist, having talked to and examined you, is in the most appropriate position to advise you.

    To find out more call us on 0808 101 0337
    or make an online enquiry.

    Sources
    1https://www.guysandstthomas.nhs.uk/resources/patient-information/vascular/Going-home-after-Radiofrequency-Ablation-4294v1.pdf

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