How Are Varicose Veins Removed?

If you imagine varicose vein treatment to involve painful vein stripping surgery and a long, uncomfortable recovery period, we have good news for you. Modern non-surgical procedures such as radiofrequency ablation, foam sclerotherapy and endovenous laser ablation are now the go-to treatment options. These walk-in-walk-out procedures use local anaesthetic, cause minimal discomfort, have a short recovery time and produce excellent results. Exactly how varicose veins are removed very much depends on your diagnosis and the type of training that your consultant surgeon has undertaken.

Varicose vein treatment options

There are a growing number of treatment options for varicose veins. Here we describe those that you are likely to come across at specialist private varicose vein clinics in the UK.

Walk-in-walk-out procedures

Radiofrequency ablation (RFA)

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence recommends RFA as the first line of treatment for varicose veins. It is a walk-in-walk-out procedure performed under local anaesthetic.

The procedure delivers radiofrequency energy to the vein wall through a thin tube which is inserted into the vein above or below the knee. The vein wall collapses and seals shut, and the flow of blood is redirected to other healthy veins.

RFA improves the appearance of trunk veins and relieves symptoms such as heaviness, pain and skin irritation. It can also be used alongside Ultrasound-Guided Foam Sclerotherapy to treat more troublesome superficial varicose veins. The procedure only leaves a tiny amount of scarring, bruising or swelling which are temporary, and it is generally less painful and more convenient than laser treatment.

Learn more about this procedure in our Guide to Radiofrequency Ablation article.

Endovenous laser treatment (EVLA)

EVLA is a similar technique to RFA but uses laser to create the heat that destroys the vein. It is a relatively new treatment, so there is limited evidence for long-term effectiveness. EVLA can be a more painful procedure than RFA, and it may not be very effective at treating thread veins in the legs.

Foam sclerotherapy

Foam sclerotherapy involves injecting a chemical foam into the affected vein to damage the lining and cause the vein to close off. It is a quick treatment th​​at is suitable for trunk varicose veins and reticular veins. NICE recommends using UGFS when radiofrequency ablation or laser treatment is unsuitable.

Learn more about this procedure in our Guide to Foam Sclerotherapy article.


Microsclerotherapy is the most effective treatment for small reticular veins and thread veins, also known as spider veins.

The surgeon uses a light to make the problem vein translucent and easy to locate and then injects a liquid (sclerosant) into the vein, which helps the body absorb the vein naturally.

Learn more about this procedure in our Guide to Microsclerotherapy article.

Surgery – ligation and stripping

According to the National Institute of Clinical Excellence (NICE), surgery should only be considered if endovenous ablation and foam sclerotherapy are deemed unsuitable.

Where should I go for varicose vein removal?

There are a wide range of private clinics and hospitals offering varicose vein removal around the UK, but not all of them are specialists in the treatment of venous conditions. Here are a few things to check before you pick up the phone and book a consultation:

  • Will diagnosis and treatment be performed by a qualified specialist venous consultant surgeon?
  • Are the treatments on offer recommended by NICE?
  • Is the clinic regulated by the Care Quality Commission (CQC)?
  • Do past patients recommend the clinic?
  • Does the clinic provide upfront treatment costs?

Talk to an expert

We offer a FREE no-obligation mini-consultation for anyone considering varicose vein or thread vein treatment at one of our private clinics in Birmingham, Solihull or London. The session provides you with an opportunity to:

Ask any questions that you have about treatment and follow-up.

Book your FREE mini-consultation today!

0121 769 2646

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