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Vein Ligation and Stripping

Surgery Overview

Vein ligation and stripping is a minor surgery. It is used to remove one or more varicose veins. These are twisted, swollen veins near the surface of the skin. They are most common in the legs and ankles. The surgery can also be done to prevent venous skin ulcers from coming back after treatment.

You may be asleep during the surgery, but it also can be done while you are awake. If you are awake, you will get medicine to numb your leg and prevent pain. The doctor will make small cuts in the area and then tie off (ligation) and remove the vein (stripping).

You will probably go home the same day as the surgery. You will need to take it easy at home for at least a few days after the surgery. How long it takes for you to recover depends on how many veins are removed.

After surgery, other veins in the legs will take over the work of the veins that are removed.

What To Expect

Vein ligation and stripping typically don't require a hospital stay. They are most often done on an outpatient basis with regional or general anesthesia. Most people go home the same day of their surgery.

Most likely, you will be able to return to work within a few days. Your doctor can let you know when you can get back to your normal activities. This may be in at least a few weeks.

Why It Is Done

Vein ligation and stripping is generally done on large varicose veins. It also can be done to prevent venous skin ulcers from returning after treatment. This surgery may be used when:

  • You want to get rid of varicose veins for cosmetic reasons and you don't have other health problems that would make surgery more risky.
  • Your legs ache, swell, or feel heavy, especially after prolonged standing.
  • A varicose vein bleeds.
  • Open sores (ulcers) develop because of varicose veins or poor blood circulation in a vein.
  • The vein is damaged in the section where it joins the superficial and deep veins in the knee or groin.

If you have both small and large varicose veins, you may have more than one type of treatment. Following vein ligation and stripping to treat large varicose veins, you may have sclerotherapy or another procedure to treat smaller varicose veins.

Learn more

How Well It Works

Vein ligation and stripping removes varicose veins successfully in about 90 out of 100 people. That means it does not work for about 10 out of 100 people.footnote 1

Risks

Vein ligation and stripping surgery has some risks, such as scarring and varicose veins recurring. Also, if the deep vein system is damaged, surgery may make problems with blood flow in the veins worse. If a nerve is injured, you may feel numbness for several months. Varicose vein surgery has the same risks associated with general surgery, including infection, bleeding, and anesthesia risks.

References

Citations

  1. Whing J, et al. (2021). Interventions for great saphenous vein incompetence. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, (8). DOI:10.1002/14651858.CD005624.pub4. Accessed August 30, 2022.

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