With the development of minimally invasive procedures over the past
decade, surgeons now have a new option for treating varicose veins.
"For patients who don't get good relief from wearing compression
stockings alone, the VNUS catheter is a new ultrasound-based treatment
modality," Dalman said.
During the past five years, the VNUS catheter has been fine-tuned,
resulting in a faster, improved procedure. "It's all done through
a needle puncture at the knee," Dalman said. "The catheter
is inserted, guided by ultrasound all the way up a vein, then heated
with radiofrequency energy and slowly pulled back out. As the catheter
is withdrawn, it cauterizes the vein from the inside and collapses it completely."
Local anesthesia is used during the procedure, which takes about an
hour. "We've transitioned the procedure out of the operating
room, into the clinic," Dalman said. "Patients need a ride
home afterward, but they can return to work the next day." That
contrasts with a roughly two-week recovery required after vein stripping.
"With VNUS catheterization, there are no incisions, typically
no post-op pain medication and the procedural risks are very
low," Dalman said.
VNUS closure is not right for every patient. It cannot be used if
there has been previous clotting in the veins and may not be
appropriate for advanced cases, Dalman said. "VNUS is ideal for
early treatment of varicosities," he said.
After trying the compression stockings, which Cheng likened to
pulling on the bottom half of a wetsuit every morning, she opted for
the VNUS procedure. "I had to take it easy for about three days
afterward, but I could still stand up and walk around," she said.
"Overall, it was a very easy experience."
The pain and fatigue in her leg disappeared, said Cheng, now a nurse
coordinator in Stanford Hospital's Heart
Center. "Cosmetically, it's also back to normal," she
said. "You can only see the puncture site if you're looking for it."