I have been working here in the Intermountain Vein Center (IVC) for over 10 years and as a Nurse Practitioner who sees all of the new patients, I have been asked all kinds of interesting questions about veins, treatment, and what to expect following treatment. There have also been questions about things that have nothing to do with veins or the vascular system. Those are always interesting and entertaining. But without a doubt the question that I am asked most often by IVC patients is “How does closing down or getting rid of those veins improve my legs? It seems like you need those veins don’t you?”
It’s a good question, because it sounds so counter-intuitive to close down veins that are needed to return the blood back to the heart. Those veins are obviously needed and are still getting some blood back to the heart even if they are not functioning 100% correctly they are still doing some work. I think that everyone would agree that anytime you are talking about closing down veins and stopping blood flow through them it makes you question if that is really a good idea. I mean the last thing anybody wants to do is to create problems.
So let’s explore this question and see how we CAN close veins down and actually improve circulation in your legs by doing so. The first thing that we need to understand is the venous system in the lower legs. Veins are responsible for returning blood from the leg back to the heart. It is the arteries that take blood flow from the heart down to the legs. And in the venous system there are Deep veins and Superficial veins. Veins work by one-way valves. These valves allow blood up and out but then close to prevent it from retuning backwards through the vein. In varicose veins these valves have stopped functioning. The deep system is the major carrier of the blood flow back to the heart. All deep veins are underneath the muscles running close the bones. From the knee up it is really just one vein that does all the work. In fact the deep system carries about 90% of all the blood form the legs back to the heart. That is impressive. The remaining 10% goes back through the superficial system.
When we treat varicose veins in the leg it is important to remember that we are only treating veins in the superficial system. Even though some of these veins are not visible to the eye and we use ultrasound to find them, they are still technically just superficial veins. We do not treat any deep veins in the IVC for varicose vein reasons. So 90% of the blood going back to the heart is left untouched by varicose vein treatment. The remaining 10% that goes back through the superficial system still has so many pathways to get back to the heart that if we close a few of the problematic ones down the blood will just re-route back through veins that are working properly. This is what allows for symptomatic relief from your varicose vein because blood is now returning through veins that are functioning correctly. So the answer is “Yes, we can close down veins in your leg and actually improve circulation.”