Endovenous Radiofrequency Ablation · Restless Leg Syndrome · Uncategorized

My Vein Ablation Experience, Part 1 (Warning, photos of immediate post procedure at bottom of post)

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.

Immediately following the procedure

I have to wear the thigh high compression stocking until tomorrow afternoon, then during the day, every day for 7 days
Restless Leg Syndrome

Restless Leg Syndrome and Vein Ablation 

If you ever want to get completely hysterical, try night after night with Restless Leg Syndrome.  Mine has come and gone for years and steadily built over the past few years to the point where on some nights it’s uncontrollable. Last night was one of those nights. 

Staying in a hotel room with my husband and 3 children, I took extra Mirapex for the night, knowing that after a few hours of driving I would need it, only to have it not work and need to add Benadryl on top of it. 

I’ve tried every possible natural remedy, and have been taking Mirapex at ever increasing doses for a few years, only to continuously have breakthrough symptoms.  Previously I tried other meds and nothing else worked either. 

By happenstance I mentioned it to a doctor I see for monitoring of my breast cancer risk (I’m in a high risk category) and she recommended vein ablation for RLS. After looking into it, I found that data supports the practice of vein ablation for RLS, yet I was hesitant. I have measurable venous insufficiency, but no varicose veins. So I waffled and hemmed and hawed. 

Now, a few months later with my RLS steadily worsening and summer just around the corner (I wouldn’t want to have to wear my compression hose for recovery in July), and a plan to relocate 200 miles away from my trusted surgeon, I am taking the plunge and have scheduled my vein ablation procedures starting next Monday. 

I plan to photograph before and after the procedure, and during if my doctor consents, as well as documenting my experience and outcome. 

I’m still uncertain about this, but at a certain point desperation takes over and that point has arrived, so I’m taking my chances with a low risk procedure. I hope that my experience will be helpful and informative for others in the same predicament 

Restless Leg Syndrome

My Relentless Quest For Rest

I love to sleep, and I do mean love. I fantasize about sleeping. Getting into bed at night is right up there with my favorite things ever. Sometimes I wish I was one of those people who function perfectly on five hours of sleep a night; I couldn’t even imagine how much farting around I’d accomplish if I had that many waking hours in a day (Lord knows I wouldn’t use my extra time productively).  But alas, I’m terribly sloth like in my need for a good, solid 8 hours, and I’ll gladly take more when I can get it.  Double digits are my favorite!

This is why it seems particularly cruel that, in addition to a child who tortures himself and me with his own insomnia, I have been cursed with Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS), as have many of the women in my family.   My maternal grandmother suffered with an increasingly severe case until her passing in her 80’s. She’s the reason that I’m on this quest. I cannot abide another 40+ years of this. Cannot. The very thought of it, after a mere 15 years of living with RLS, brings me to the brink of hysteria. Come hell or high water, I will find a solution. 

RLS means that just as I doze into that twilight sleep, my legs get frisky. A kick here, a wiggle there, next thing you know I’m dancing a solo cha chat between the sheets for hours every night. Not only that, but sometimes I’m blessed with surges that feel like I’m getting frisky with Uncle Ron’s electric cow fence. When I really get going I get repetitive nightmares as well. This can go on for hours, night after night, worsening every year. 

Thus far in my quest for rest, I have tried medicine, to which I quickly develop a tolerance and increase my dose, as well as any number of supplements, essential oils, and medical workups.  So far I’m batting zero. 

I checked in with a surgeon that I see to manage my breasts which are not only lumpier than great aunt Edna’s mashed potatoes, but also rival a non-rotating black hole for density.   She also manages venous insufficiency and varicose veins (she’s a women’s surgical specialist and she’s fabulous), and she started spouting data about venous insufficiency and RLS. She ordered me some compression stockings as a preliminary measure, and scheduled a venous ultrasound. 

Low and behold, I have significant venous insufficiency. As such, I qualify for vein ablation surgery after a trial of compression hose.  I briefly considered just rolling with the stockings long term, but I quickly realized that she don’t care for the sensation of both my legs being digested by python-esque peristalsis all day. And I’m vain. I like my legs, thankyouverymuch, and heavy gauge hose is anything but flattering. 

I’ve read the data about vein ablation, and it looks promising, though it’s fairly understudied. But frankly, it’s a low risk procedure, and the possibility of even reducing my RLS symptoms is a siren call that I’m powerless to resist. 

This is the first in a blog series about my adventures with RLS, vein ablation and whatever else comes along. I hope that others can learn from my experience