What is a phlebectomy?

An ambulatory phlebectomy is a procedure to remove varicose veins (veins that are enlarged and exposed). The operation is performed under a local anaesthetic where tiny incisions are made in the veins affected.

Why would you do it?

A phlebectomy is used to treat veins which have begun to bulge and become prominent lumps at the surface of the skin. Although varicose veins can appear anywhere, they are most common in the legs, as being upright means there is more pressure in these veins.

To prevent blood from flowing backwards, veins contain valves that only allow blood to flow in one direction. In varicose veins, these valves no longer work properly allowing blood to flow backwards and causing the vein to become enlarged. People may opt for treatment for aesthetic reasons or if varicose veins become painful, uncomfortable or itchy.

Patients might be offered a phlebectomy if other means of treatment have not worked. For example, the most common treatment for varicose veins is self-care (exercising and weight loss) or wearing compression stockings. Compression stockings work by squeezing the legs, thereby helping the blood to move more effectively.

However, for more severe cases of varicose veins, a phlebectomy might be recommended.

What does it involve?

An ambulatory phlebectomy can usually be performed under local anaesthetic and doesn’t require an extended hospital stay. The veins are removed via multiple tiny incisions in the skin. Only the parts of the skin that have incisions need to be numbed with local anaesthetic. Scarring from these incisions is very minimal and the procedure is usually done in 30 minutes to an hour.

There are few complications that can arise from this procedure, but sometimes patients might experience short-term pain, infection or changes in skin colour.

How to prepare for it

There is no specific preparation required before undergoing an ambulatory phlebectomy, however, patients are advised to wear loose-fitting clothing, and to remove any jewellery. They may also be asked to wear a gown for the procedure.

Post-operative care

As the incisions made are so small, stitches are not required, and the leg will instead be wrapped in a compression bandage. Compression stockings or bandages are usually required for a couple of weeks following the operation. You can expect to resume day-to-day activities within 24 hours.

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