Varicose veins, thread veins and deep venous thrombosis (DVT) information and treatment

Surgical removal of varicose veins

What does the traditional operation involve?

If the newer less invasive methods are not available to you locally, or if your veins are not suitable for them, then you will require a "traditional" operation. There is nothing wrong with this and it works well, but it does take longer to recover from that the newer methods. Please note that the details of an operation, for example, what kind of stitch or bandage is used may vary from surgeon to surgeon.

Most commonly, the source of the problem is at the top of the leg (groin). In this situation you will require a cut in the groin and small nicks over the veins in the leg and calf. The varicose veins will be removed. You will have some self-absorbing stitches in the cut in the groin and usually no stitches are required in the other small incisions.

The leg will be bandaged up at the end of the operation. If the main source of the problem is behind the knee then the cut will be here. Occasionally both the groin and the back of the knee are involved.

What will it be like after the traditional operation?

Normally you come into hospital on the day of the operation and go home the on the same day (day case) or on the following day. The leg will be bandaged up. There is bound to be some bruising and although every effort is made to minimise this the amount of bruising varies from person to person and according to how many and large the veins are.

You will be able to walk around from the day after the operation and are encouraged to do so. You are welcome to walk as far as you like but are not obliged to walk miles as people used to be advised many years ago. You would certainly be expected to walk around and mobilise several times per day as a minimum.

When you are not walking around it is a good idea to try and keep the leg up, for example when watching television put the leg up on the arm-rest of the sofa as avoiding hanging the leg down reduces any tendency to swelling or bruising.

After some days the bandage is removed. You can have a bath at this time. You will notice some bruising in the leg. This will gradually fade over a period of time just like any other bruise.

To start with the places where the veins were may feel a bit hard and lumpy under the skin. The stitches in the groin are self-absorbing and do not need to be removed.

It is recommended that you get a compression stocking or support tights prior to your surgery and you wear these once the bandage has been removed. This will make the leg more comfortable

How long do I need off work after a traditional operation?

People vary quite considerably as to how much bruising they have in their leg and how this affects them. It is certainly recommended that you should have a week off following your surgery during which the bandage is in position.

After this time you will be more mobile but there is bound to be some bruising of the leg. People vary as to how much they feel able to do at this point. You would certainly be able to walk around and are encouraged to do this. You may be well enough to go back to work a week after your surgery but most people prefer to take some more time before going back to work.

If your job is particularly physical and you need to be in very good physical condition before going back to work then you may require several weeks off. If both legs are operated on at the same time, again it may take a little longer.

Many people are able to go back to work after a week. Most are able to go back after a couple of weeks, but if there are very extensive varicose veins, both legs are operated on, or you need to be particularly fit for major physical activity, you may require a couple of weeks longer still.