Vein Stripping

What Vein Stripping Is And Why It's Done

Vein stripping, also called vein ligation, literally involves stripping or pulling the vein from the body. The question immediately arises, why would anyone wish to have this done?

Vein stripping is almost always done on a leg, and almost always is done to remove varicose veins. Larger varicose veins are simply pulled out, while smaller varicose veins are removed by another procedure which involves closing them off so they wither away rather than being physically removed.


Since varicose veins are the usual targets, it would seem that vein stripping is usually done for cosmetic purposes. This is for the most part true, however varicose veins can cause other problems which may eventually make vein stripping a necessity as faulty veins can at times create health problems. Once they appear, varicose veins do not go away. If anything, they grow larger over time. Varicose veins are a result of what is termed venous insufficiency, also called venous reflux. In our circulatory system, the blood is sent to various parts of the body through arteries, and returned to the heart through veins. The appearance of varicose veins may signify that blood is not being returned to the heart in the proper manner. The blood pools up in the veins, which become enlarged or distended, and these distended veins near the surface of the skin are what we refer to as varicose veins.

As mentioned earlier, varicose veins are usually not serious and are often only a cosmetic concern. This condition may in time worsen however, causing fatigue in the legs and often pain, usually a burning type of pain. Sometimes itching is present in the vicinity of varicose veins, and ulcers may appear. At this point a person's lifestyle may begin to be compromised, and thoughts will turn to finding a remedy, which in this case is vein stripping.


The Vein Stripping Procedure - Vein stripping is surgically accomplished by making an incision at each end of the vein, inserting a wire through the vein, tying the vein to the wire, and pulling or drawing the wire and the vein out of the body. In the process, tributary veins must either be closed off or in some instances are simply break off as the vein is removed.

This procedure is not new, in fact has been practiced since the late 19th or early 20th century. The vein stripping procedure not only removes unsightly varicose veins, but in nearly 3 out of 4 cases eliminates venous reflux, and the fatigue, pain, and irritation that can go with it. This surgery is done under general anesthesia and is quite straightforward. Recovery time can be slow however, often taking several weeks to a month or more. Broken blood vessels usually contribute to most of the postoperative pain and swelling that patients might encounter.

The most dangerous complication that  might occur would be a blood clot, which may lodge in a lung, resulting in a pulmonary embolism. This condition fortunately is quite rare, but some individuals who may be prone to such a condition may be advised against having vein stripping performed. This would mainly include the elderly, women who are pregnant, and anyone having poor blood circulation for whatever reason. While the risks are not substantial, the time it takes to recover from this type of surgery may make one think twice if it is to be done for cosmetic purposes only. When varicose veins affect one's ability to go lead a normal life however, the thought of vein stripping takes on an entirely different perspective, and surgery would be the proper way to go unless one has physical issues such that it might be unwise to do so.