Vein ligation is a minor surgical procedure to remove damaged veins and prevent any complications that may arise due to vein damage. In cases involving severe damage to several valves and the vein itself, the diseased part of the vein is removed (stripped). An incision below the vein allows for a flexible instrument to thread up the vein, grasp and remove it.
Typically, one or more incisions are made over the damaged area, and the vein is tied off, or ligated. If ligation cuts off a faulty valve and the vein and valves below the faulty one are healthy, the surgeon may opt to leave the vein in place in order to continue circulating blood through the veins with healthy valves.
This procedure is usually done on large varicose veins. It can also be done as a preventative measure to keep venous skin ulcers from returning after treatment. This surgery may be considered as a result of the following:
- You have no other health problems and want to get rid of varicose veins for cosmetic reasons.
- Your legs swell, ache, or feel heavy, especially after prolonged periods of standing.
- Varicose veins bleed.
- Open sores (ulcers) develop due to varicose veins or poor blood flow.
- The damaged area of the vein is located where it joins the deep and superficial veins in your groin or knee.
You may have more than one type of treatment if your varicose veins are both large and small. Following ligation and stripping to treat large varicose veins, sclerotherapy may be used to treat smaller issues.
As with any surgery, vein ligation has some risks, such as infection, bleeding, and anesthesia reactions. Risks can also include recurrence of the condition as well as scarring. In addition, if the deep vein system is damaged, the procedure may cause blood flow in the veins to worsen.
If the procedure is done below the knee and on the largest vein in the leg (great saphenous vein, or GSV), numbness may occur if nerves are damaged.
Vein ligation and stripping should not be considered in the following circumstances:
- Adults who are older and have medical conditions which can pose a high risk for complications.
- Poor circulation in arteries of the legs.
- Fluid buildup and swelling due to skin infections, a blockage in lymph vessels (lymphedema), or blood-clotting issues.
- An abnormal passageway between a vein and artery in the leg (arteriovenous fistula).
What to Expect
In most cases, vein ligation and stripping procedures are done with a regional or general anesthesia and on an outpatient basis. Patients typically go home the same day of their surgery, with no hospital stay required.
Most likely, it will take a few days before you can return to work. Several weeks after surgery, you will be able to resume normal recreational activities.