Do Veins Grow Back After Varicose Vein Treatment?
The question of whether or not veins can grow back after varicose vein treatment is more complicated than a simple yes or no. However, it is a common question that people who have had varicose vein treatment, or who are about to undergo such treatment, often have. We answer this question in the discussion below.
First, think back to one of the most fascinating facts we learn in high school biology class:
If you chop an earthworm into seven parts, each part can grow a whole new body, i.e. you get seven new worms from one… WOW! This includes a complete set of all new organs in each new worm… again, WOW! We find this utterly amazing because it’s not something the human body can do! When people have their spleen or gall bladder surgically removed, these organs do not grow back – period! When these organs are removed, they are gone forever! In fact, if only part of the stomach or part of the intestine is removed, that part of these organs, do not grow back. They too are gone forever- period! So, we marvel at what the earthworm body can do!
However, contrary to what many people think, veins are not organs! They are actually a specialized part of the connective tissue in the body. All portions of the connective tissue in the human body, including veins, are genetically programmed to grow back if injured. If this weren’t true, we humans would be in a lot of trouble because we could never heal after a major cut or stab wound. If a piece of glass cuts a deep gash in your leg, you fully expect for the severed veins to heal themselves, right? That’s because veins are genetically programmed to grow back!
During varicose vein treatment, when a vein is removed, the body is programmed to “sense” this as an “injury.” So, what does it try to do in some cases? It tries to grow the vein back! After ambulatory phlebectomy (microphlebectomy), for example, where a varicose vein is removed piece by piece through tiny cuts in the skin (usually no bigger than five millimeter in size), the body will try to grow that portion of the vein back. However, because these veins tend to be bigger ones, the vein growth is not very successful and instead the vein re-growth looks more like a tangled web of spider veins, or just blotchy bruising. This is called telangiectatic matting and it does not result in a viable usable vein. Usually too, this telangiectatic mat goes away over time.
The older varicose vein treatment known as “vein stripping” has now fallen out of favor. However, it is still performed on a small scale so it should be mentioned here that vein regrowth, or at least the body’s attempt to do so, is very high in this type of old fashioned varicose vein treatment. This is because vein stripping is a highly invasive procedure that cuts through the connective tissue extensively and causes a major “injury” which the body then attempts to heal by growing back all that “injured” tissue.
So, yes, veins do grow back, or at least attempt to, SOMETIMES after varicose vein treatment. However, you should also understand that with most modern forms of varicose vein treatment, the incidence is of this is actually quite low. This is because the techniques used are only minimally invasive so the body does not respond as it would to a major injury. Further, in techniques like sclerotherapy and thermal ablation by a laser, the vein is actually not removed but rather “ablated.” This means the vein is treated with a chemical, or with laser energy, which causes it to collapse upon itself and seal off so that blood can no longer enter that portion of the vein.
Modern varicose vein treatment like sclerotherapy and EVLT, does not seem to cause the body to automatically try to regrow the vein in the same way that vein stripping did and does. The attempted regrowth of veins after ambulatory phlebectomy are not successful, and in most patients, fade away eventually, as they are reabsorbed by the body. It should be noted here that these attempts by the body to regrow large segments of veins in part fail because they never have any vein valves in them!
Now, in some cases, when people ask, “Do veins grow back after varicose vein treatment?” they are actually asking if more varicose veins form, i.e. is there a “recurrence” of varicose veins in the same area? Further, if they see a varicose vein forming in the same area where they had varicose vein treatment a year or more before, they may THINK the same vein is growing back. However, this may just be a case of another nearby vein now failing too and a NEW varicose vein is forming. It could also mean that the initial varicose vein treatment missed a feeder vein that was also contributing to the varicosity and has now gotten worse.
Vein biology is a fascinating topic. When you go to a varicose vein treatment clinic, like Metro Vein Centers, it can actually be an interesting experience, unlike other doctor visits. When Metro Vein Centers does a duplex ultrasound on your legs, for example, you actually get to see the inside of your veins in graphic three dimensional detail! It can be a surreal experience to actually see the blood pulsating through your own veins! If you are not squeamish, you may want to actually request that your vein doctor and or ultrasound technician show you a real time view of the inside of your own veins.
Putting all that aside, a duplex ultrasound is a vein doctor’s best diagnostic tool! This one technology has completely revolutionized how varicose vein treatment is conducted. It has also made varicose vein treatment far more accurate, which makes the recurrence rate far lower! Further, it has allowed for modern minimally invasive techniques where veins do not grow back, or at least not to the extent they used to grow back with older techniques, i.e. this is seldom an issue any more!