Varicose and spider veins can be unsightly and cause pain and discomfort. Other vein conditions can lead to swelling, mobility issues and infections. With expert care, you can relieve the discomfort and improve your health.
The Vein Center at Washington University and Barnes-Jewish Heart & Vascular Center provides complete care for all types of vein problems. Our passion is helping patients find relief from pain, swelling and mobility issues. Even for severe cases, our limb preservation program offers options to avoid amputation.
Vein Care: Why Choose Barnes-Jewish Hospital?
At the Vein Center, you receive care from vascular surgeons who deliver exceptional care, including:
- Wide range of treatment options: Here, you will find care for all types of vein-related problems, from spider veins to limb-threatening venous problems. We offer medical management, in-office procedures and open surgery.
- Innovative approaches: Our team is pioneering new techniques to restore blood flow. We use minimally invasive catheter-based techniques to close veins or open blockages.
- Collaborative care between podiatrists and plastic surgeons: Venous ulcers — large sores due to lack of blood flow — can be painful and debilitating. Our teams work in sync to help heal large venous ulcers faster. Specialized wound care and vascular care can treat underlying vein disease. We use skin grafting and free flaps for tissue coverage.
Types of Vein Problems We Treat
Vein problems can cause itching, swelling and pain when standing or walking. At our vein center, you can receive treatment to relieve:
- Varicose veins and spider veins: When blood pools in your legs and cannot return to your heart, pressure builds up over time. The result can be small but unsightly red blood vessels (spider veins). Or veins may swell and become lumpy, causing aching or throbbing pain and a feeling of heavy legs. Learn more about varicose veins and spider veins.
- Chronic venous insufficiency: Chronic venous insufficiency occurs when valves in your leg veins don’t close all the way. Instead of flowing to your heart, blood can flow backward into your lower legs and feet. As blood pressure in your feet increases, it can cause pain, swelling and leg sores. Read more about venous disease treatment.
- Peripheral artery disease (PAD): In PAD, hardened blood vessels make it impossible for blood to flow in and out of your arms and legs as it should. Sometimes, PAD and venous disease can coexist. These problems can lead to critical limb ischemia — when numbness or severe infection can set in due to lack of blood flow. Learn more about peripheral artery disease.
Nonsurgical Care Through the Vein Center
The first treatment recommendations for varicose veins and other problematic veins usually involve home care. Our vascular team assesses your condition. We often recommend nonsurgical therapies, including:
- Elevating the legs: Elevating your legs can help reduce leg swelling and relieve other symptoms of mild to moderate varicose veins. You may need to prop your feet up above your heart level three or four times a day. If you need to stand for a long time, flex your legs occasionally to keep blood flowing from the legs up toward the heart.
- Compression stockings: For more severe varicose veins, your doctor may prescribe compression stockings. These tall, elastic socks squeeze the veins and stop excess blood from flowing backward. They can help relieve symptoms of leg discomfort or even heal skin sores and prevent them from returning.
Vein Treatments at Barnes-Jewish Hospital
We offer several surgical and minimally invasive therapies to repair or remove damaged segments of veins: These procedures include:
- Radiofrequency ablation (RFA): Your surgeon may recommend RFA if testing shows that the saphenous vein, the largest superficial vein in the leg, has damaged valves, allowing blood to flow the wrong way. RFA is an outpatient procedure that requires no incision except a small nick to insert a needle. Your surgeon inserts a catheter (thin, flexible tube) with a heated tip to destroy the damaged area of the vein. The tip heats the walls of the varicose vein and destroys the vein tissue. The vein, which is no longer able to carry blood, is eventually absorbed by the body.
- Nonthermal vein closure: In some cases, we can use a catheter to inject surgical glue. The process closes diseased veins and reroutes blood to healthy veins. This outpatient procedure can take place in your provider’s office.
- Micro-incision venectomy: Your surgeon may use this procedure, also called ambulatory phlebectomy, along with radiofrequency ablation or as a separate procedure. The surgeon makes tiny incisions in your leg to remove areas of varicose vein clusters. It is typically an outpatient procedure. You will receive a local anesthetic to numb the area.
- Sclerotherapy: Using tiny needles, we inject a chemical into varicose veins or spider veins to destroy them. The chemical irritates the veins from the inside out so the abnormal veins can no longer fill with blood. Blood travels back to the heart through other veins, while the body gradually absorbs the damaged blood vessels. Most people have two to four sclerotherapy procedures to complete treatment.
- Laser surgery: We may use heat and light energy from lasers to close a damaged vein in one specific area.
- Vein stripping (vein removal): We use this procedure only rarely, when less-invasive ablation procedures are not an option. Vein stripping uses a small incision in the groin area and another incision in the calf below the knee. The surgeon ties off the major varicose vein branches associated with the saphenous vein and removes the saphenous vein from the leg.
Limb Preservation at the Heart & Vascular Center
Severe vein problems sometimes result in lack of blood flow from the lower extremities (feet and legs). Some patients may be told that amputation is their only option for large venous ulcers or severe disease. At the Limb Preservation Center at the Washington University and Barnes-Jewish Heart & Vascular Center, we provide complete care with the goal of preserving your limbs.
Our Limb Preservation Center treats patients with problems due to diabetes, kidney failure and foot and leg wounds, among other conditions. We focus on helping you maintain your comfort, mobility and independence. Our care options include:
- Bypass surgery: In bypass surgery, we connect a blood vessel from above a vein blockage to your foot. The surgery restores blood flow with the help of a healthy vessel.
- Hyperbaric chamber: Barnes-Jewish Hospital offers a hyperbaric oxygen chamber. This therapeutic setting combines pure oxygen with high pressure to speed the healing of leg wounds. Learn more about hyperbaric oxygen therapy.
- Open deep venous arterialization (DVA): We use this surgical technique to help people avoid amputation. In DVA, your surgeon connects an artery and a vein in your foot, bypassing faulty valves. Essentially, the procedure converts an artery to a vein. Your surgeon may also use a flap to cover nonhealing wounds and bring blood flow to the area. The enhanced blood flow can help wounds heal and resolve pain. Read more about avoiding amputation.
Our Vein Center Team
Vein care at the Heart & Vascular Center brings together a team of skilled specialists. Find a doctor.
Your care team may include:
- vascular surgeons who perform procedures related to arteries and veins
- plastic surgeons who perform limb preservation and reconstruction procedures
- podiatrists who specialize in foot and toe problems, including nonhealing wounds and limb preservation
- wound care specialists who oversee wound healing
To make an appointment with a Washington University vascular specialist at Barnes-Jewish Hospital, call 314-362-5347.