Varicose vein stripping (also known as Ligation and Stripping) is a common surgical intervention available to people who are experiencing particularly large or painful varicose veins. It is also suggested for situations where the lack of circulation in the affected limb is reducing the patients’ quality of life. This procedure does, in most circumstances, involve a general anaesthetic however this is unlikely to involve an overnight stay unless surgery is performed on both legs.
The decision about whether the patient actually needs to stay in hospital is made on the basis of their all round physical health. Ligation and stripping involves tying off the affected vein which is then stripped out which means that the other veins in the legs take on the responsibility for carrying the blood around the body.
There are a number of circumstances where a patient would be likely to be considered as a good surgical candidate for this operation in addition to those mentioned above. The common theme when discussing the complications of varicose veins are the problems that come about as a result of venous insufficiency. Put simply, when your blood does not circulate properly, the blood is not oxygenated or cleaned properly which effectively means that there can be gradual oxygen starvation to the extremities that can result in some very unpleasant complications.
Ulcers and sores can form in the ankle area, (known as Venous ulcers) that develop when there is excessive pressure in the lower leg veins that causes them to leak fluid which eventually can cause the skin to break down to develop ulcers. These ulcers often prove difficult to heal and that can act as a potential site of infection. The other skin conditions that are complications associated with varicose veins are Lipodermatosclerosis and Varicose Eczema. Lipodermatosclerosis causes the skin on the affected limb to tighten up, dry out and darken in colour whereas Varicose Eczema causes the skin to go red, flaky and itchy.
The operation itself is relatively simple and this involves minimal trauma as it only requires two small 5 cm incisions, one at the groin and one at the ankle or knee. The affected vein is tied off and sealed at the groin area which allows the affected vein to be removed via the incision at the ankle. This is achieved by putting a very fine flexible wire through the affected vein and carefully pulling it out of the leg.
Although this is a relatively simple procedure, there is likely to be noticeable bruising, soreness and wound leaking/bleeding around the incision immediately afterwards, and on average there will be a need to take between one to three weeks off work in order to ensure a full recovery, quite apart from the fact that the wearing of compression bandages is a critical part of the recovery process in order to prevent blood clots. There is also a minor risk of deep vein thrombosis or nerve damage from the surgery however this is the kind of risk that accompanies most surgeries.