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Sclerotherapy uses an injection of a special chemical (sclerosant) into a varicose vein or spider veins. The injection damages and scars the inside lining of the vein. This causes the vein to close.
During this procedure, the affected leg is propped up to drain blood. Then the sclerosant is injected into the varicose or spider vein. This is done in a doctor's office or clinic. It takes 5 to 30 minutes. How long it takes depends on how many veins are treated and how big they are.
After the injection is given, pressure is applied over the veins. This is to prevent blood returning to the veins when you stand up. You may need to wear compression stockings for several days or weeks to maintain the pressure.
Sclerotherapy may be painful. The shot of sclerosant can cause a feeling of burning or cramping for a few minutes in the area where the shot was given. You may need repeated sessions and many injections each session. It depends on how bad the varicose and spider veins are and what type of sclerosant is used.
A newer, less invasive technique allows your doctor to inject sclerosant with a catheter. The catheter and sclerosant are guided to the affected vein with the help of duplex ultrasound. This process allows sclerotherapy treatment to be used on larger varicose veins. Previously, these large veins could only be treated surgically with ligation and stripping, in which larger varicose veins are tied off and removed.
For most people, sclerotherapy doesn't require any recovery period. After the treatment, you will likely be able to walk right away. Avoid strenuous exercise for 1 week after the procedure. Walk every day for at least 10 minutes. Try not to sit or lie down for long periods of time.
For the first 2 weeks after the procedure, avoid exposing your legs to the sun.
You'll probably have to wear compression stockings for a short time after having sclerotherapy.
Sclerotherapy is used to treat:
It may be done on its own or as a follow-up to surgery.
Sclerotherapy should not be done if you:
Sclerotherapy costs less than surgery, requires no hospital stay, and allows a quicker return to work and normal activities.
Sclerotherapy can reduce symptoms and improve the look of the skin. It works in about 80 out of 100 people. It doesn't work for about 20 out of 100 people who have the procedure.footnote 1
The risks of sclerotherapy include:
CitationsVan den Bos R, et al. (2009). Endovenous therapies of lower extremity varicosities: A meta-analysis. Journal of Vascular Surgery, 49(1): 230–239.
Current as of: July 6, 2021
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:E. Gregory Thompson MD - Internal Medicine & Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine & David A. Szalay MD - Vascular Surgery
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