Public Release: 

Minimally invasive treatment for varicose and spider veins

Northwestern Memorial HealthCare

More than 80 million Americans suffer from some form of superficial venous disease, such as varicose and spider veins. Doctors at Northwestern Memorial Hospital are now offering these patients a relatively new treatment option called Endovenous Laser Treatment (EVLT), which is an alternative to surgical stripping (removal) of the greater saphenous vein - the main vein that runs the length of the inner leg.

During EVLT, a small laser fiber is inserted, usually through a needle stick in the skin, directly into the damaged vein. Continuous laser beams are then delivered inside the vein, which causes the vein to collapse and seal shut.

"This minimally invasive procedure offers many advantages to traditional methods of eliminating varicose veins. It is faster, less painful and leaves no scars," said Howard Chrisman, M.D., clinical vice chairman of radiologist at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. "Whereas surgical stripping is usually performed under general anesthesia, EVLT requires only local anesthesia and no hospitalization. In fact, the procedure typically takes only about thirty minutes and patients can return to their normal activities the same day." At Northwestern Memorial, the departments of dermatology, interventional radiology and vascular surgery coalesce to form a Vein Program that offers a unique multidisciplinary approach to the treatment of superficial venous disease. These unsightly veins are actually caused by an incompetent saphenous vein. Valves in the vein become weak and allow the blood to flow back and pool. The damaged vein lets the blood flow fall toward the feet rather than carrying it back to the heart. Then vessels of the vein, which are close to the skin, begin to branch out, become enlarged, and appear twisted and ropelike.

"While some people seek treatment for cosmetic improvement, many men and women seek relief from pain caused by discomfort and swelling in the legs," adds David Wrone, M.D., a dermatologist and co-director of the Vein Program at Northwestern Memorial Hospital.

Pain and swelling in the legs is frequently related to abnormal leg veins. Symptoms, often made worse by prolonged standing, include feelings of fatigue, heaviness, aching, burning, throbbing, itching, cramping, and restlessness of the legs. Severe varicose veins can compromise the nutrition of the skin and lead to eczema, inflammation or even ulceration of the lower leg.

Heredity is the number one contributing factor causing varicose and spider veins. Women are more likely to suffer from abnormal leg veins. Other predisposing factors include aging, standing occupations, obesity and leg injury.

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To schedule an appointment with a physician in Northwestern Memorial Hospital's Vein Program, patients may call 312-926-8400.

About Northwestern Memorial Hospital
Northwestern Memorial Hospital (NMH) is one of the country's premier academic medical centers and is the primary teaching hospital of Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine. Northwestern Memorial and its Prentice Women's Hospital and Stone Institute of Psychiatry have 744 beds and more than 1,200 affiliated physicians and 5,000 employees. Providing state-of-the-art care, NMH is recognized for its outstanding clinical and surgical advancements in such areas as cardiothoracic and vascular care, gastroenterology, neurology and neurosurgery, oncology, organ and bone marrow transplantation, and women's health.

Northwestern Memorial was ranked as the nation's 5th best hospital by the 2002 Consumer Checkbook survey of the nation's physicians and is listed in the majority of specialties in this year's US News & World Report's issue of "America's Best Hospitals." NMH is also cited as one of the "100 Best Companies for Working Mothers" by Working Mother magazine and has been chosen by Chicagoans year after year as their "most preferred hospital" in National Research Corporation's annual survey.

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