Foam sclerotherapy

This is a variation of sclerotherapy which is ideally suited to large varicose veins.

The standard form of sclerotherapy treatment is recommended for small to medium sized varicose veins. If this applies to you then visit our sclerotherapy section.

What is the difference between the two?

The main difference is in the substance used to seal varicose veins. The standard form of sclerotherapy and the ultrasound guided version both use a liquid chemical: whereas this version uses a foam substance instead.

The foam is able to easily relocate the blood flow in the varicose vein which means that it has a much greater contact with the inside of this vein. There is little risk of this foam being diluted as compared to the liquid chemical which also increases its effectiveness.

Plus, this foam is more visible and easier to monitor if using guided ultrasound compared to using the liquid chemical.

Foam sclerotherapy procedure

The procedure is very similar to the normal sclerotherapy treatment. The area where the varicose veins are situated is numbed via a topical gel which is a form of local anaesthetic applied to the skin.

Once this has taken effect the specialist will inject the foam substance into the varicose veins. This may be done using ultrasound as a guide to help ensure that this substance covers the entire area to be treated.

This can be done with a single injection although more than one may be needed depending on the extent of your condition.

Once the foam has reached the veins it reacts with the inner lining causing scars to form. This has the effect of narrowing and eventually closing the vein which prevents blood flowing through. These sealed veins gradually fade and disappear.

Blood flow is then re-routed through healthy veins.

If ultrasound is used, it is done to ensure that the foam progresses smoothly and evenly through the veins.

This procedure takes from 30 to 45 minutes in total.

Recovery after foam sclerotherapy

A bandage is applied to the treated veins and you will be given compression stockings to wear. These help the treated area to heal and must be worn in accordance with your specialist"s instructions.

It is a good idea to arrange for someone to drive you home after this procedure. There is a small risk of vision problems although these are temporary and will ease within a short space of time.

You will be able to walk around and in fact, will be encouraged to do so. Plus you will be able to return to work the same day.

Advantages of foam sclerotherapy

The main advantage is that it is a quick and painless procedure which causes your varicose veins to gradually fade over time. Some people find that there is a noticeable improvement after one treatment although most people will require several sessions.

It usually takes a few sessions before the results can be seen.

This is a safe treatment but you do need to be aware that there is a small risk of the foam substance escaping from the veins and into the heart. What happens is that the foam crosses over into the oxygenated blood which travels around the body towards the heart and the brain.

If this happens then it can cause problems. Your GP or vascular specialist should discuss this risk and any others with you before you proceed with this treatment.

Disadvantages of foam sclerotherapy

There are side effects with both types of sclerotherapy which include:

    • Itching around the treated area
    • Redness and/or bruising around the treated veins
    • Formation of tiny blood clots known as "microembolisms"
    • Headaches
    • Lower back pain
    • Change in skin colour in the treated area

Another important issue is that of recurrence: there is no treatment which "cures" varicose veins. What these treatments do is to control the symptoms.

The other issue is that you will require more than one session of treatment. It takes more than one session before the varicose veins start to fade so this is something to bear in mind. 

Sclerotherapy is a short term solution to the problem of varicose veins but it is difficult to ascertain the long term effects.

Guide to Varicose Veins

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