In the vein-stripping procedure, the surgeon ties off the upper end of the vein to stop backflow of blood from any defective valves and then makes an incision in the skin above the lower end of the vein.
Vein stripping involves threading a plastic or metal wire from the bottom of the vein up through the groin, and tying off the defective tributary veins. Then the larger vein is lifted away. Depending on the number of veins involved, this procedure can be done under either local or spinal anesthesia either in the hospital or on an outpatient surgery basis. Afterwards, the leg must be kept elevated for six to eight hours and then wrapped with elastic bandages or stockings for at least six weeks.
The most frequent complication of vein stripping is bleeding under the skin, but it is rarely serious. The loss of a few veins is generally of small concern because circulation is simply rerouted to nearby veins. Stripping one vein is no guarantee that other, formerly healthy veins will not become varicose at another time.
Vein stripping has become less popular since the advent of coronary bypass surgery, which generally requires the use of one of the large superficial leg veins (saphenous veins). For example, a woman who has coronary heart disease, or a family history that puts her at risk for coronary heart disease, should carefully consider before removing a saphenous vein. If it is a varicose vein from ankle to groin, stripping would make sense as the diseased vein would be of little value in some later surgical procedure.
Last updated: 26-May-04