Vein Ligation and Stripping: What to Expect at Home

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Your Recovery

You will have some pain from the cuts (incisions) the doctor made. Your leg may feel stiff or sore for the first 1 to 2 weeks. Your doctor will give you pain medicine for this. You can expect your leg to be very bruised at first. This is a normal part of recovery and may last 2 to 3 weeks. You may need to wear tight bandages, called compression dressings, on your leg for the first few days after surgery. This can help reduce bruising.

If you have stitches, they may dissolve on their own. Or your doctor may take them out 7 to 14 days after your surgery.

You will need to take it easy at home for 3 to 7 days after the surgery. The amount of time it takes for you to recover depends on how many veins were removed.

After surgery, problems caused by the varicose veins may go away. Removing varicose veins usually does not cause circulation problems, because other veins in the legs will take over the work of the veins that were removed.

This care sheet gives you a general idea about how long it will take for you to recover. But each person recovers at a different pace. Follow the steps below to get better as quickly as possible.

How can you care for yourself at home?

Activity

  • Rest when you feel tired. Getting enough sleep will help you recover.
  • Follow your doctor's instructions about activity. Your doctor may recommend that you rest in bed or limit your activity for several days after surgery. This can help reduce bruising.
  • Resume activity as your doctor tells you. Start by walking a little more than you did the day before. Bit by bit, increase the amount you walk. Walking boosts blood flow.
  • Avoid strenuous activities, such as bicycle riding, jogging, weight lifting, or aerobic exercise, for 2 weeks or until your doctor says it is okay. If you do strenuous activities too soon after the surgery, you may have some bleeding from your incisions. If this happens, lie down with your leg propped up on pillows. If the bleeding does not stop, call your doctor or nurse call line.
  • Ask your doctor when you can drive again.
  • You will probably need to take 3 to 7 days off from work. It depends on the type of work you do and how you feel.
  • You may shower after your doctor says it is okay to take off the compression dressings. Do not take a bath for the first 2 weeks, or until your doctor tells you it is okay.

Diet

  • You can eat your normal diet. If your stomach is upset, try bland, low-fat foods like plain rice, broiled chicken, toast, and yogurt.
  • Drink plenty of fluids (unless your doctor tells you not to).
  • You may notice that your bowel movements are not regular right after your surgery. This is common. You may want to take a fibre supplement every day. If you have not had a bowel movement after a couple of days, ask your doctor about taking a mild laxative.

Medicines

  • Your doctor will tell you if and when you can restart your medicines. He or she will also give you instructions about taking any new medicines.
  • If you take blood thinners, such as warfarin (Coumadin), clopidogrel (Plavix), or aspirin, be sure to talk to your doctor. He or she will tell you if and when to start taking those medicines again. Make sure that you understand exactly what your doctor wants you to do.
  • Be safe with medicines. Take your medicines exactly as prescribed. Call your doctor if you think you are having a problem with your medicine.
  • Take pain medicines exactly as directed.
    • If the doctor gave you a prescription medicine for pain, take it as prescribed.
    • If you are not taking a prescription pain medicine, ask your doctor if you can take an over-the-counter medicine.
  • If you think your pain medicine is making you sick to your stomach:
    • Take your medicine after meals (unless your doctor has told you not to).
    • Ask your doctor for a different pain medicine.
  • If your doctor prescribed antibiotics, take them as directed. Do not stop taking them just because you feel better. You need to take the full course of antibiotics.
  • Your doctor may prescribe a blood thinner when you go home. This helps prevent blood clots. Be sure you get instructions about how to take your medicine safely. Blood thinners can cause serious bleeding problems.

Incision care

  • If you have compression dressings on your leg, follow your doctor's instructions about when to take them off.
  • If you have strips of tape on the incisions, leave the tape on for a week or until it falls off.
  • After your doctor says it is okay to take off the compression dressings, wash the area daily with warm, soapy water and pat it dry. Don't use hydrogen peroxide or alcohol, which can slow healing. You may cover the area with a gauze bandage if it weeps or rubs against clothing. Change the bandage every day.
  • Keep the area clean and dry.

Ice and elevation

  • To reduce pain, put ice or a cold pack on your leg for 10 to 20 minutes at a time. Do this every few hours. Put a thin cloth between the ice and your skin.
  • Prop up your leg on a pillow when you ice it or anytime you sit or lie down during the 2 to 3 days after surgery. Try to keep it above the level of your heart. This will help reduce bruising.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

When should you call for help?

Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • You passed out (lost consciousness).
  • You have severe trouble breathing.
  • You have sudden chest pain and shortness of breath, or you cough up blood.

Call your doctor or nurse call line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You have severe pain in your leg, or it becomes cold, pale, blue, tingly, or numb.
  • You have pain that does not get better after you take pain pills.
  • You have loose stitches, or your incisions come open.
  • You are bleeding a lot from the incisions.
  • You have signs of infection, such as:
    • Increased pain, swelling, warmth, or redness.
    • Red streaks leading from your incisions.
    • Pus draining from your incisions.
    • A fever.
  • You are sick to your stomach or cannot keep fluids down.

Watch closely for any changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse call line if:

  • You are not getting better as expected.

Where can you learn more?

Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

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Current as of: June 4, 2016