Parents are well aware of the power of ultrasound testing to see their baby developing. Vascular specialists also use ultrasound technology to see problems developing in your veins. McLeod Vascular Specialist Gabor Winkler, MD explains:
Here’s a summary of Dr. Winkler’s comments:
One of the most fortunate developments of the last several decades has been the advance of non-invasive testing for vascular problems – both for arterial and vein problems. The ultrasound technology that is available today allows a very precise anatomic definition of the vein system. We can see the veins very clearly. And we’re able to assess them from a functional point of view, allowing us to see which way the blood is flowing in the veins and if the valves inside the veins are working as they should.
We can even observe blood flow from an area remote from the problem. For instance, if there’s a problem with the veins in the pelvis, it may not be easily visible. We can determine how the blood is flowing in that area by looking at how the blood is flowing in the nearby groin area or in the upper thigh.
So, it’s a very sophisticated tool that enables us to diagnose almost any problem in circulation through the veins and guides the treatment. It also helps us determine how serious the patient’s condition is and to follow them after treatment to ensure that they are healing properly and do not require further testing or therapies.
A lot of problems in the veins are related to our lifestyle – sitting or standing for prolonged periods of time, being overweight. These issues need to be addressed. Don’t stand or sit for long periods. Instead, lounge around and keep your legs elevated.
External compression helps counteract the increased pressure coming from the inside of the vein. An appropriate compression stocking is good – probably the best – non-invasive, nonsurgical measure to help prevent symptoms or improve symptoms if they do exist. It’s almost impossible to heal open wounds without compression stockings. We are insistent that our patients wear these stockings. In most cases, they prevent any need for further invasive treatments.
Among the more invasive treatments that we offer are simple injections. Cosmetically disturbing veins can be injected with special medication that can improve the appearance or make it disappear completely. Larger veins can be injected to help them shrink or disappear over time.
There are other procedures to relieve the cause of the increased blood pressure in the small branches of veins in the legs. The most common is an endovenous ablation, where a small catheter is introduced into one of the larger superficial veins using ultrasound images to guide it. Using a laser or a microwave-type radiofrequency, heat is created to burn the vein from the inside.
New techniques use a special medication glue introduced through a specialized catheter, narrowing the vein to reduce the pressure on the lower parts of the leg. The goal of all treatments is to reduce pressure from the blood flowing the wrong way in the veins.
Ten to 15 years ago, there were also a number of open surgical procedures, where some larger veins were simply removed. Even today, that is occasionally necessary.
If – and when – the cause of the increased pressure in the vein is eliminated but varicose veins remain, they can be removed through small incisions with specialized instruments.
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