DENVER, Colo. -- Patients suffering from varicose veins now have a new option for treatment: a surgery that is so quick and almost painless that some are calling it a "lunchtime surgery."
Kristen Wolf had been experiencing pain and swelling in her legs from several veins that were not pumping blood properly. She was also concerned her varicose veins would get worse over time.
Wolf's mother had surgery on her veins a few decades ago and endured a lengthy and painful vein stripping procedure, where a surgeon removed the varicose veins that were not working properly. Recovery from this procedure can take several weeks.
"Just watching my mother go through it and knowing it is a genetic disease, I was afraid if I didn't do something early on, that it would just get worse and worse," Wolf said.
Not wanting to repeat her mother's painful path, Wolf went to Rose Medical Center where Dr. Sharon Hammond is treating several patients each day.
"I usually can see them as young as their 20s, but I've had even a high schooler come to me with very bad problems with her veins," Hammond said.
Varicose veins can cause pain in the legs, swelling, discoloration and skin ulcers near ankles, visibly enlarged veins and feelings of fullness or heaviness in the legs.
For some patients, "it truly interferes with their exercise activity," Hammond said. "I mean, their legs swell up, they can't be as active as they want to be."
So on a recent Thursday morning, Wolf checked into the outpatient surgery center at Rose. She was soon under anesthesia and ready for the surgery.
Hammond inserted a small catheter into Wolf's malfunctioning veins and quickly heated a small section from the inside. This permanently closes the vein. Hammond uses an ultrasound machine to see exactly where she is working.
This surgery leaves only a small puncture mark on a patient's leg and often is finished in less than 30 minutes.
Wolf was awake five minutes after the surgery, home a short time later and back to her normal activities the next day.