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3D Medical Animation explains Sclerotherapy Treatment

Written by Cibu Thomas on

Sclerotherapy is a procedure implemented to cure Varicose and Spider veins. In other cases, it is also used to cure hemorrhoids and in case of children, vascular and lymphatic malformations.

Spider veins and varicose veins

Spider Veins and Varicose Veins - 3D Medical Illustration
Spider Veins and Varicose Veins - 3D Medical Illustration

Spider veins and Varicose veins are swollen blood vessels that twist and turn, and are visible through skin. The former are larger in size and more raised than the latter, and both are caused due to similar factors. It may be hereditary or caused due to obesity, hormonal influences during pregnancy, puberty and menopause, use of birth control pills etc.

Formation of Spider and Varicose veins

The heart pumps the blood throughout the body using arteries, whereas the blood is pumped back to the heart from various parts of the body through veins. These veins have one-way valves, which prevent the blood to flow back against gravity. When these valves become weak, blood tends to leak back into the veins. This results in blood collecting in these veins and enlarging them, thus becoming varicose. Spider veins are also caused in the same manner.

Procedure for sclerotherapy

Sclerotherapy Procedure - 3D Medical Animation

3D Medical Animation - Sclerotherapy for the Treatment of Spider and Varicose Veins

The procedure of sclerotherapy is very simple. The treatment takes around 15-30 minutes on an average, though it further depends on the size, area and the number of veins to be treated. The area to be treated is first cleansed, and then a fine needle containing the sclerosing solution is inserted into the targeted vein. The solution causes the vein walls to swell, stick together and seal shut, stopping the flow of blood. If required, multiple injections of dilute sclerosant are injected to the abnormal veins. The patient’s leg is then compressed with either stockings or bandages for approximately two weeks after treatment. As a result, the vein fades within a few weeks.

Sclerotherapy treatment for large varicose veins

To increase the surface area of the sclerosant used, it is mixed with air or carbon dioxide in a syringe or using mechanical pumps. This process if more effective compared to the normal sclerosant because of the fact that it does not mix with the blood in the veins compared to the 100% sclerosant. The foam displaces the blood and thus prevents itself from getting diluted with the blood in the veins. Because of its enhanced efficacy, it is used for the treatment of longer and larger veins.

Ultrasound Guided Sclerotherapy

This is used for treating advanced varicose veins that are hidden beneath the skin. A detailed duplex ultrasound examination is carried out to create a virtual venal map of the affected area. The ultrasound precisely highlights all abnormal veins and adjacent structures such as the deep veins and the arteries. With this ultrasound guidance, the doctor can detect and locate the hidden abnormal veins and inject them with a sclerosant while observing on the ultrasound monitor.

Complications caused by Sclerotherapy

Sclerotherapy, though being a simple and a typically safe procedure, does carry some risk and may cause side effects. For example, when hypertonic saline solution is used, temporary side effects that may occur at the injection site include:
  • Stinging or pain at the sites of injection
  • Swelling of the ankles or feet, or muscle cramps
  • Red, raised areas at the injection sites
These usually disappear within a day or so.

  • Darkened brown areas at the injection site may result when blood escapes from treated veins. They are probably formed from iron in the blood. These dark areas occur more often in patients who have larger veins or patients who tan easily. In most cases they disappear within a year, but they may last longer.
  • About one-third of patients develop fine red groups of vessels, especially on the thighs. Most disappear by themselves, some need additional injection treatments or laser therapy, and a few vessels may not disappear with treatment.
  • When some of the solution escapes into the surrounding skin or enters a small artery at the treatment site, small painful ulcers at treatment sites may develop immediately following treatment or after a few days. They can be successfully treated, but it is important to tell your dermatologist immediately if they develop.
  • Bruises usually occur after laser treatments and are probably related to the thinness of blood vessel walls. They usually disappear in a few weeks. Occasionally, bruising occurs after sclerotherapy.
  • Allergic reactions to sclerosing solutions may occur. Although allergic reactions are uncommon, they can be treated.
  • Inflammation of treated blood vessels may be caused. It is very unusual but can be treated with medications such as aspirin, compression, antibiotics or heat.
  • Lumps in injected vessels may be caused by coagulated blood. They are not dangerous and may be drained by a dermatologist a few weeks after injection.
  • Burning with discoloration of the skin
Sclerotherapy is just one of the methods for treating spider veins, occasionally varicose veins, and venous malformations. Other methods of treatment are surgery, radiofrequency and laser ablation. A Cochrane Collaboration review comparing sclerotherapy benefits to surgery concluded that sclerotherapy is better than surgery in the short term, but surgery has greater benefit in the long run. However, the evidence was inconclusive and more research is required in this area.
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