I had part one of my vein ablation done today. My procedure was Endovenous Radiofrequency Ablation, and was done on my left Greater Saphenous vein.
*Disclaimer: This is a story of my experience. This is NOT medical advice!
I walked into the office just a touch on the nervous side. The reason for my nerves was that I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. My doctor had explained what to expect, but she cannot convey the patient experience, only the technicalities of the procedure. That is one of the reasons I wanted to share this, because reading the story of someone’s experience would have helped me understand what to expect. I had the procedure done at Liberty Surgical Associates in Holland, Michigan, by Doctor Liberty Hoberman, who is a board certified general surgeon. Dr Hoberman has an excellent bedside manner, and confident, assured demeanor that adds to her technical surgical ability making her an excellent, well-rounded doctor. When I arrived, the nurse showed me to a changing room where I put on a pair of disposable shorts. Dr Hoberman does these procedures right in her office, so I was familiar with her staff from previous visits.
After being shown into a room, I met with the venous sonographer (Angela) who assists Dr Hoberman in the procedure who reviewed the details, aftercare instructions, and any questions I had before getting my consent for the procedure. She then covered my lower body in sterile drapes and prepared the equipment and explained what she was doing as she went, while we exchanged stories of our weekends.
Dr Hoberman entered the room after everything was prepared, and double checked to see if I had any last-minute questions, and reassured me that the procedure should be only a minor inconvenience.
The ablation is guided by ultrasound, so the technician scanned my whole inner, upper leg and into my calf to get an overview of my vein, and the best place to insert the catheter. Then came the pokes. I lost count of how many, but there was numbing medicine to numb my skin while they injected numbing medicine around my vein. The medicine not only prevents pain, but it insulates the area from the heat of the ablation. This took the most time out of anything. I’m fairly stoic and have no fear of needles, so it wasn’t a big deal to me, though some people need a little anxiety medicine to get through all the pokes. During the pokes, the sonographer kept tapping my knee. At first this perplexed me, but the reason is simple, it distracts my body and my brain from what is happening. In other words, it is a simple way to give reassurance and good patient care. I was told what to expect at every step, and reassured that everything was going well.
When the numbing was completed it was time to activate the catheter that had been inserted into my leg, below the knee, earlier. I was told that if even a twinge of discomfort came up to let them know so that they could stop and add more numbing solution to the area. The machine came on with a high-pitched sound, I honestly expected to feel something, but didn’t. I saw the temperature rise to 120 degrees, and wondered how that low of a temperature could ablate my veins, the realized that it was in Celsius, not Fahrenheit. (gulp) I didn’t like that part, nope, not at all. It was a bit of a mental trip, but it made no difference, I couldn’t feel it. They moved the catheter down my leg in measured increments to completely close off the vein. Toward the distal (down in my calf) end, I felt some heat, and indeed, when I said the word they stopped the procedure and added more numbing solution, then finished up. The heat was only mild discomfort, and it stopped just a second or two after I told them, so it wasn’t a big deal, but it was slightly alarming.
Then the catheter was removed, and Angela held pressure on the opening where it had been inserted. She cleaned me up and removed the drapes, which were held to my legs with adhesive. The removal of the adhesive from my hairy legs was easily the most painful part of the whole thing.
I return for an ultrasound on Thursday and to do my right leg on Friday, then next week another ultrasound, doing the small veins in my calves, and another ultrasound after that. The ultrasounds are to ensure that a thrombosis (blood clot) hasn’t formed. It’s a remote possibility, but the fact that it’s possible means that catching it early by ultrasound is good practice.
I will be far less nervous going in for my second leg. As far as surgical procedures go, this one was a cake walk. I do give credit to a fabulous doctor and her reassuring manner for a good part of that.
Below are photographs of my leg after the procedure, the swelling is from the numbing solution.
Now time will tell if this procedure helps my Restless Legs Syndrome, the reason I had it done. The aftercare is simple, walk a lot, don’t run, and use my thigh high compression stockings for a week.