For years, Tammi Bricker was one of the more than 30 million Americans suffering from enlarged, rope-like and often painful varicose veins. While she didn’t hesitate to seek treatment for her much smaller spider veins, she stopped short of tackling her bigger problem.

“Frankly, I was a little afraid about having work done on them,” says the art director and graphic design consultant, “so I just put up with my condition.”

But then Tammi learned that today’s newer, less invasive treatments can often take care of varicose veins in one single, two-hour-long session. And that Misaki M. Kiguchi, MD, a vascular surgeon at MedStar Heart & Vascular Institute (MHVI), specialized in treating venous disease with these improved techniques. She booked an initial consultation at MHVI’s new outpatient varicose vein center in Chevy Chase right away.

Improved Techniques, Results

Vein ligation or stripping was once the only long-lasting treatment for varicose veins. But for the right patients, today’s improved, minimally invasive outpatient procedures are just as effective at relieving pain, addressing the root cause of the problem and improving appearances.

Chief among them are sclerotherapy and radiofrequency ablation.

With sclerotherapy, a chemical is introduced into spider or varicose veins that lie just under the skin’s surface, sealing them off. The approach may require several injections over time to achieve the desired result.

Radiofrequency ablation (RFA) is the treatment of choice for larger varicose veins or those deeper in the legs. RFA works much like sclerotherapy but uses heat instead of chemicals to reach its goal.

During the outpatient procedure, a vascular surgeon first places a small catheter into the malfunctioning vein, followed by a fiber that is then heated. The thermal energy collapses the vein, which is eventually reabsorbed by the body as other veins take over. RFA is most often a one-time treatment and completed within an hour or two. Thanks to its effectiveness, RFA has largely replaced vein stripping, yielding the same results.

“RFA and sclerotherapy are both well tolerated, with less pain and a faster return to normal activities than vein stripping, which was popular decades ago,” Dr. Kiguchi concludes. “Most patients are surprised by how quick and easy treatment is today.”

That was certainly the case for Tammi. After receiving a thorough examination, ultrasound and explanation of her options, Tammi agreed to RFA, in part because of Dr. Kiguchi’s background.

Within three weeks of her outpatient procedure, Tammi could already see and feel a difference. Based upon her experience and the results, she’s glad she finally took the plunge.

“We have a swimming pool,” she says, “and for the first time in years, I won’t feel self-conscious about my legs this summer. I am so thankful and happy.”