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Last updated: 11/24/2009

Definition

Sclerotherapy, which takes its name from a Greek word meaning "hardening," is a method of treating enlarged veins by injecting an irritating chemical called a sclerosing agent into the vein. The chemical causes the vein to become inflamed, which leads...

to the formation of fibrous tissue and closing of the lumen, or central channel of the vein.



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Varicose veins are the tortuous veins that are visible just under the surface of the skin. While the condition is not generally medically important, varicose veins are not desirable cosmetically. The narrated animation describes how varicose veins are thought to form.

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During sclerotherapy for the treatment of varicose veins, the doctor injects a chemical solution directly into the vein (A and B). The needle travels up the vein, and as it is pulled back, the chemical is released, causing the vein to form fibrous tissue that collapses the inside of it (C). (Illustration by GGS Inc.) During sclerotherapy for the treatment of varicose veins, the doctor injects a chemical solution directly into the vein (A and B). The needle travels up the vein, and as it is pulled back, the chemical is released, causing the vein to form fibrous tissue that collapses the inside of it (C). (Illustration by GGS Inc.)




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A commonly performed non-surgical treatment for varicose and "spider" leg veins is sclerotherapy. It has been used in the treatment of varicose veins for over 150 years. Sclerotherapy is often used for telangiectasias (spider veins) and varicose veins that persist or recur after vein stripping. Sclerotherapy can also be performed using microfoam sclerosants under ultrasound guidance to treat larger varicose veins, including the greater and short saphenous veins. A study by Kanter and Thibault in 1996 reported a 76% success rate at 24 months in treating saphenofemoral junction and great saphenous vein incompetence with STS 3% solution. A Cochrane Collaboration review concluded sclerotherapy was better than surgery in the short term (1 year) for its treatment success, complication rate and cost, but surgery was better after 5 years, although the research is weak. A Health Technology Assessment found that sclerotherapy provided less benefit than surgery, but is likely to provide a small benefit in varicose veins without reflux. Complications of sclerotherapy are rare but can include blood clots and ulceration. Anaphylactic reactions are "extraordinarily rare but can be life-threatening," and doctors should have resuscitation equipment ready. There has been one reported case of stroke after ultrasound guided sclerotherapy when an unusually large dose of sclerosant foam was injected.


From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Varicose_veins#Sclerotherapy

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