Originally published in HealthEast's GoodForYou! newsletter, fall 2008
New treatments offer fast recovery, less pain
With each of her two pregnancies, Chaleece Roberts developed more and more varicose veins. She couldn't wait to get rid of them. "They were bulging and bumpy and pretty nasty," said Chaleece.
34-year-old Chaleece lives in Wyoming, Minnesota, with her husband and their two young boys. When her son, Coleten, was about two or three, he was curious about her varicose veins and asked her what they were. She told him these were "little presents" from him. However, her varicose veins were no laughing matter. They were more than unsightly; they were painful. She had also developed blood clots in her legs, one right after her youngest son, Landen, was born. She felt it was time to do something.
Kyle Wahlstrom, MD & Chaleece Roberts
She went to the HealthEast Vascular Center in Maplewood that specializes in treating all types of vein disease and offers state-of-the-art technology to treat varicose veins. "We treated her legs in stages, about every four months, because she had three types of vein disease, including large varicose veins, smaller varicose veins and spider veins," said Kyle Wahlstrom, MD, a general surgeon who treats vein disease at the HealthEast Vascular Center.
Treating larger veins with VNUS Closure
Chaleece underwent her first procedure at the HealthEast Vascular Center in Maplewood a few months after her youngest son was born. Dr. Wahlstrom treated the larger veins first with a state-of-the-art technology called, VNUS Closure®, a radiofrequency vein oblation. Dr. Wahlstrom says it’s an alternative to vein stripping that is faster and less painful.
Here’s how VNUS Closure® works. Dr. Wahlstrom made a small needle-sized incision near the knee and inserted a thin Closure catheter. Using an ultrasound, he moved the catheter into position and used radiofrequency to seal the vein shut. This helps divert blood flow immediately to healthy veins. Chaleece was awake for the whole thing and thought it was interesting watching the ultrasound as Dr. Wahlstrom sealed the veins. "It was pretty quick and I went back to work the next day," said Chaleece.
Studies report that more than 90 percent of veins treated with the VNUS Closure remain closed, reflux free, after two years. By treating larger problems first, Dr. Wahlstrom says some of the smaller problems, such as spider veins, often go away or are greatly reduced, even though they weren’t directly treated. So, in some cases, this can eliminate the need for further treatment.
Varicose veins are caused when the veins get weak. The valves inside the vein lose the ability to push blood back up to the heart. So, the blood pools and the veins dilate up under the skin. Two out of 10 women develop varicose veins. Varicose veins are more likely if you have a family history, you work on your feet a lot, you’re overweight or you’re pregnant.
Four months after her first procedure, Dr. Wahlstrom next treated her smaller varicose veins with another state-of-the-art technology, called TriVex. "It’s like a liposuction, where we suck out the veins," says Dr. Wahlstrom. Because he can visually see the veins with this technology, he says this reduces damage or injury to nearby nerves in the legs, unlike vein stripping where veins are just randomly plucked out. "Patients have a faster recovery time than with vein stripping," says Dr. Wahlstrom. "Ultimately, you have a much better outcome." About a year after her first procedure, Dr. Wahlstrom plans to treat her spider veins with a laser.
Benefits of seeing a surgeon
She liked the fact that Dr. Wahlstrom is physician and a surgeon, who can do all types of medical treatments for varicose veins, and wasn’t limited to just laser treatments like the cosmetic centers. "We give our patients the opportunity to return to their normal life more quickly with less pain and in many cases avoid surgery," said Dr. Wahlstrom.
Chaleece said, "I’m very happy with the results and I would recommend it to anyone suffering from varicose veins." She's really looking forward to traveling to Florida this winter and wearing shorts.