Sclerotherapy

What is sclerotherapy?

Sclerotherapy is an effective treatment for spider veins and smaller varicose veins. The minimally-invasive treatment involves injections of a sterile sclerosing agent directly into the affected veins, causing them to seal shut and eventually fade from view. Collapsed veins are reabsorbed by the body and blood is rerouted through healthy veins nearby.

There are a variety of sclerotherapy solutions available today, allowing the physician to customize treatment to a patient’s specific needs. The type of solution used will depend on the size and location of the affected veins. Liquid sclerotherapy solution is typically used for smaller veins, while foam solutions cover a greater surface area and can be used on some medium-sized veins. In some cases, sclerotherapy may be combined with other vein treatments to achieve the best possible results.

When is it done?

Sclerotherapy is commonly recommended as a cosmetic treatment for both spider and varicose veins. This treatment can make small veins disappear entirely, for a smoother, more attractive appearance. However, the procedure may also relieve symptoms that sometimes accompany these veins, including heaviness or achiness of the leg, leg swelling or night cramping.

How does the procedure work?

Sclerotherapy is performed in a physician’s office, and usually takes less than one hour to complete. You will probably be asked to lie on your back with your legs slightly elevated. The treatment area will be cleansed, and then the physician will begin injecting the sclerosing agent into the affected veins, using a very fine needle.

Some patients report a mild stinging sensation as the solution is placed into the vein. However, a new cryotherapy element may be used by some doctors to cool the treatment area, making the procedure nearly pain-free. No stitches are required with this treatment, but compression dressings and massage will probably be used after the injection to move the solution through the vein and prevent blood from going into the treated vein.

The number of injections required will depend on the size and number of veins to be treated. A single injection typically works on approximately one inch of affected vein. The physician performing the procedure may use magnification, special lighting or even ultrasound imaging to ensure the needle goes directly into the vein. Ultrasound imaging is often combined with foam sclerotherapy to address slightly larger veins beneath the skin’s surface.

What is the recovery like?

After the procedure, you will probably be encouraged to walk around a bit to move blood through the vessels and prevent blood clots from forming around the treatment site. Compression stockings are usually recommended after sclerotherapy treatment to promote healing and healthy blood flow. The time frame for wearing compression stockings may be anywhere from one week to one month, depending on the patient.

Many patients return to work or normal activities immediately following sclerotherapy treatment. Because no anesthesia is used during the procedure, patients are usually allowed to drive themselves home after their treatment session. Some patients experience mild bruising or swelling at the injection sites, which typically dissipates on its own within a matter of days. Skin darkening around the injection site may also occur. This side effect usually resolves on its own, but it may take a number of months before the skin discoloration disappears completely.

When will the results appear?

Sclerotherapy results are not immediate. Most patients will see affected veins begin to disappear within a few weeks, although some may take up to one month or more. Larger veins can take up to three months before the final results are seen.

How many treatment sessions are needed?

The number of treatment sessions varies from patient to patient. Some patients see the desired results after just one treatment, while others might require numerous treatment sessions to ensure affected veins disappear completely. When multiple sessions are recommended, the time between appointments is generally four to six weeks.

Will veins reappear after treatment?

Treated veins are gone permanently once they disappear. However, new veins may appear in the same location over time, which may require additional treatment in the future. Preventative measures, such as elevating legs and wearing compression stockings, may reduce the risk of new spider and varicose vein formation.

What is the cost for sclerotherapy?

The cost of sclerotherapy varies based on the area of the country where the procedure is performed and the number of veins to be addressed. A single sclerotherapy session may cost anywhere from $300 to $500. Because sclerotherapy is typically recommended as a cosmetic treatment, insurance does not usually cover the cost of the procedure. However, if your spider or varicose veins are accompanied by uncomfortable symptoms, insurance coverage may be available.