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Patient with varicose veins needs to keep the blood flowing


One Augusta Health employee finally finds relief with vascular procedure

In April 2018, Thomas Ratcliffe, 52, got diagnosed with heart failure. He visited Kenneth Sternberg, DO, FACC, an interventional cardiologist at the Augusta Health Heart and Vascular Center, who took one look at Ratcliffe’s legs and knew something was wrong.

Ratcliffe, an ALS (Advanced Life Support) provider who has been at Augusta Health for 15 years, says he didn’t have significant pain. But he did have red marks up and down his legs, as well as edema (swelling of the legs), hyperpigmentation in both of his legs and bulging varicose veins up to his thighs. Some of his varicose veins were so big they were bleeding.

Dr. Sternberg did a venous reflux study to examine Ratcliffe’s blood flow. It showed Ratcliffe had severe venous reflux in three of the veins in his legs. This means that instead of blood flowing upwardly to Ratcliffe’s heart, it would pool in his legs, causing his symptoms.

The solution for venous reflux disease is venous ablation, a procedure that corrects this problem by closing off the damaged vein so blood can instead flow through a healthy vein.

Dr. Sternberg, who treats people ranging in age from 20 to 80 with the procedure, says it is solely done for symptom relief, not for cosmetic reasons.

Over the past year, Ratcliffe, who lives in Waynesboro, had all three veins closed — one in July, one in October and one in December. Venous ablation is a simple and quick procedure. “Each one was about an hour or an hour and 15 minutes,” Ratcliffe says, adding that the process was fairly pain-free, aside from a needle stick. “You really don’t feel anything.”

The recovery time from venous ablation is minimal. In fact, Ratcliffe was back to work the day after his most recent procedure.

“With the procedure, you want people up and walking,” Dr. Sternberg says. “There can be zero time off from work.”

Ratcliffe says he saw symptom relief almost immediately. “I have no leg pain and I don’t have the leakiness of the legs; everything seems to be just great. If you’re having leg problems, the best thing you can do is to go to Dr. Sternberg, let them do an ultrasound and see if that procedure is right for you.”

To learn about the venous ablation procedures done at the Augusta Health Heart and Vascular Center, visit augustahealth.com/heart or call (540) 245-7080.