I wrote a few weeks ago about my experience with vein disease. After recognizing my symptoms and meeting with a vein specialist, a course of treatment was put into play. The first was to treat a larger leaking vein in my left thigh with endovenous ablation. Of course I was quite nervous and didn’t know what to expect. In this article, I explain the procedure, what it felt like, the recovery, and my tips for staying calm (since you are awake the entire time).
What is Endovenous Ablation?
Endovenous ablation therapy is a minimally invasive procedure in which a laser fiber is inserted into your damaged vein. The catheter heats and essentially seals or closes off that vein by burning it, with your blood rerouting to healthier veins. Over time, the nonfunctioning vein will be absorbed by your body. The heat is created with a laser or high-frequency radio waves.
This treatment is normally used in your larger saphenous veins, as was in my case.
My Endovenous Ablation Procedure
I’m not going to sugar coat it — it wasn’t pleasant. Especially for me, who gets queasy and faints at a simple blood draw. I knew I had my work cut out for me, but was more ready to get my vein disease under control.
As mentioned in my last article, I had a good amount of leakage from a saphenous vein in my left thigh. Ablation was going to seal off that vein and end that leakage, so I buckled up mentally.
While it wasn’t a pleasant experience, it wasn’t as bad as I thought. The procedure prep was pretty typical with the technologist sanitizing my thigh and draping my lower body in paper cloth except for my left thigh. The doctor gave me several shots of a numbing solution, so I can’t really say I felt pain more than just discomfort and pressure.
The technologist then applied gel to my leg and used a handheld ultrasound wand, which showed my veins on a screen for the doctor. Once they identified the location of the saphenous vein, the procedure began. Of all things, this made me queasy. When they press down on your leg, you hear the “whoosh” of your blood come through the speakers. This part got me light headed during the initial ultrasound, so I should have known it was coming.
Back to the procedure. A small incision was made in my inner upper thigh, then the fiber was inserted. I definitely felt it going down the entire length of the vein (almost down to my knee), and there is a stretching feeling, which I hated the worst. This took a few minutes.
Once the catheter was in place, the doctor began heating it, which was sealing off the vein. The doctor and technologist carefully monitor the ultrasound screen the entire time. After a few minutes, the catheter was removed, and the procedure was over. From the time I received the numbing medicine until the end maybe took 20 to 25 minutes.
Keeping Calm During the Procedure
For those of you who do not get queasy, this procedure may be a walk in the park. But for those who do get light headed with anything medical (like myself), here are my personal tips for staying calm during the procedure:
- Bring your own ice/cold packs and lay them behind your neck.
- I brought a sleep mask so I didn’t have to see what was happening.
- If you don’t want to hear what they are talking about during the procedure, bring earbuds, but keep the volume low enough so you can easily hear instructions from your doctor.
- Ask your vein doctor if it’s OK to take prescribed anti-anxiety medication ahead of your procedure, or any calming herbs you normally take.
After the Ablation Procedure
The incision site was cleaned and covered with a small butterfly bandage. I experienced no bleeding other than light spotting, like if you were to get a blood draw. I then went back to a normal exam room and was told to walk as much as possible that day. Yes, walk! It helps with rerouting the blood. So, I got groceries and did as many errands as I could. I felt NO pain, other than an annoying numbness, which was temporary.
I was also told to wear compression socks for a few days after. It also helped to put an ice pack on the incision site when I got home. A couple days later I did notice my skin turning a dark purple color, almost as if it were burned (because it was). But that was also a few days.
I also had to keep the incision site dry for a day or two to prevent water from getting in, which was easy thanks to a large waterproof bandage. But do take care with this step.
Now? I feel great! No more gurgling or jerking in my legs, no more swelling. My advice is to seek treatment if you feel any vein disease symptoms! In my next article, I will talk about my sclerotherapy experience.
Seeking Vein Treatment
If you’re ready for treatment, schedule a free consultation with one of our expert vein providers today. I know it made a huge difference for me.