Foam sclerotherapy - a minimally invasive treatment for varicose veins

Written by: Top Doctors®
Published: | Updated: 12/12/2023
Edited by: Emily Lawrenson

Over the past few years, treatments for varicose veins have improved significantly – there is no longer any need for patients to face invasive surgical procedures that require a general anaesthetic, with a long recovery period waiting for them afterwards.


There are now many treatments for varicose veins available. Varicose veins usually do not cause any significant medical problems, but some find them unsightly, which is reason enough to consider treatment. As nowadays treatment can be done as a day case, which means it is a walk-in, walk-out procedure, varicose vein surgery and treatment is a popular choice for patients visiting a vascular surgeon.


One of the treatments offered by many surgeons nowadays is foam sclerotherapy.

What is sclerotherapy?

Sclerotherapy has been around as a treatment for a significant amount of time, and it involves injecting a special solution called a sclerosant into the vein, damaging the internal lining and creating a blood clot. The body then destroys the vein itself over time.


How does foam sclerotherapy differ from sclerotherapy?

Instead of the solution being directly injected into the veins, foam sclerotherapy involves making the solution into a foam through mixing it with a small amount of air and agitating the liquid. The solution is exactly the same one used for conventional sclerotherapy – the only thing that changes is the form it comes in.


How does foam sclerotherapy work?

In traditional sclerotherapy procedures, the blood can dilute the solution once it is injected into the vein. With a foam version of the solution, the air comes into play, and can in fact push the blood out of the way. The solution fills the vein, and stops when it comes into contact with larger veins, as it finally mixes with blood there and becomes ineffective.


Over a short amount of time, the air in the solution naturally leaves the injected vein, but the blood which was pushed aside sticks to the lining of the veins. This blocks the vein off, effectively destroying the varicose vein.


How is the foam sclerotherapy procedure performed?  

The surgeon inserts a local anaesthetic into the area they wish to treat. They use an ultrasound scan to detect the exact positioning, and insert a needle into the vein. Foam is then injected, while the surgeon uses the ultrasound monitor to watch the procedure carefully and monitor progress.


When enough foam has been injected, the needles are removed, and compression pads are applied to the leg. Compression is essential and ensures the veins do not fill with blood when the patient assumes normal activity (standing and walking).


What happens after foam sclerotherapy treatment?

The bandages must be kept on for a few days, as will be advised by your surgeon. You will then return for a follow-up appointment, where the bandages and compression will be removed.


Sometimes patients will need more than one session to completely remove the varicose veins, but usually when treatment is completed, the varicose veins will no longer be visible. Sometimes bruising occurs, but this is mild and usually goes away after a period of weeks. This is typical for most treatments of varicose veins.


The patient can resume day-to-day activity straight away, but is advised not to do vigorous exercise. This means patients can go back to work directly after the procedure, with little to no discomfort. 


By Topdoctors
Vascular surgery

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