Featured Articles

Go with the flow

Go with the flow | Augusta Health Matters

Venous ablation painlessly corrects blood flow between the leg and heart

Vein disorders rank among the most common chronic conditions in North America. In fact, by the age of 50, nearly 40 percent of women and 20 percent of men have significant leg vein problems.

Most often, vein issues are associated with varicose veins, which often mark the start of a progressive medical condition, explains Kenneth Sternberg, DO, interventional cardiologist with the Augusta Heart and Vascular Center. “When left untreated, venous disease can lead to chronic venous insufficiency, also called venous reflux, which can lead to serious, life-altering conditions,” he says.

Fortunately, an ultrasound easily diagnoses venous disease. If venous reflux is identified, the Augusta Health Heart and Vascular Center offers venous ablation, a non-invasive, painless, state-of-the-art procedure that can resolve the disease in about one hour.

Cause and effect

Venous reflux occurs when leg vein valves that allow blood to flow upwards to the heart no longer function. This causes blood to “pool,” or collect, in the legs and typically produces varicose veins. Symptoms of venous reflux, which may present with or without the presence of varicose veins, include:

  • Ankle and foot swelling that may progress up the lower leg.
  • Skin discoloration; eczema; scarring or hard, thickened skin; and ulceration in the lower leg.
  • A heaviness or fullness, aches, restless leg syndrome, fatigue, pain, burning, itching and muscle cramping in the lower leg.

A revolutionary treatment

Augusta Heart and Vascular Center’s vascular surgeons perform venous ablation to correct vein reflux. The procedure itself involves numbing the area, making a very small cut in the skin and then inserting a thin tube called a catheter. The catheter is guided into the diseased vein, radiofrequency or laser energy is applied to the vein through the catheter’s tip, and the catheter is gently removed. This energy causes the damaged vein to heal shut and the blood reroutes itself through a healthy vein.

“It’s painless and the patient walks home afterward,” Dr. Sternberg explains. “Patients with large varicose veins see cosmetic improvement, but far more importantly, serious medical consequences are resolved.”

Learn more about procedures at the Augusta Health Heart and Vascular Center at augustahealth.com/heart-and-vascular.