Vein ligation and stripping

This is the most common form of surgery for varicose veins. Vein stripping has been performed for a great many years and involves the removal of large varicose veins with faulty valves.

This is often combined with ligation: a procedure in which the varicose vein is tied off or "ligated" before its removal.

This procedure is performed to remove the saphenous vein. This is the large vein which runs down the leg and into the thigh and is clearly visible. 

This surgery is performed under a general anaesthetic.  

Ligation and stripping procedure

This is a two step procedure. The first step involves the surgeon making two small incisions: the first at the top of the varicose vein near the groin. The second incision is made near the bottom of the leg, usually near the ankle or knee.

He/she will tie off the top part of the saphenous vein and ensure that this is completely sealed.  

This is the ligation part of the operation.

The second step is where a thin flexible length of wire is inserted into the bottom of the vein. It continues to be pulled through the vein and removed via the incision at the bottom of your leg. Both the wire and sealed vein are removed at the same time.

That is the stripping part of the operation.

This procedure does not affect the blood supply in the legs. The healthy veins are more than capable of taking over from the varicose veins. So removing a damaged superficial vein will have no impact upon them at all.

Recovery after vein ligation and stripping

A surgical dressing or bandage is applied to the treated area. You will have to wear compression stockings after this surgery and continue to do so for up to two weeks.

If you have a severe form of varicose veins which has resulted in faulty valves or a deep blockage then you may have to wear these stockings on a permanent basis.

The surgeon will discuss this further with you.

Advantages of vein ligation and stripping

The main benefit from this surgery is that of removal of the offending vein.

Most people will not require additional surgery or treatment for varicose veins: however, a small percentage will experience a recurrence of these in the next 10 years.

Disadvantages of vein ligation and stripping

There are risks attached to this procedure which is common to any type of surgery. All surgery has risks although these tend to be small.

It means taking time off work to recover plus there is the chance that these varicose veins will return at some point in the future.

Bleeding and infection are the main side effects but there are others which include:

  • Bruising around the treated area
  • Pain
  • Damaged nerves
  • Deep vein thrombosis (DVT)

Deep vein thrombosis is the medical name for the formation of a blood clot within a vein. This type of complication is rare but it does happen so you need to take this into consideration before consenting to surgery.

There are clinics who do not advocate ligation and/or stripping.

Guide to Varicose Veins

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