THE (KIND OF GRUESOME) HISTORY OF VARICOSE VEIN REMOVAL

While today’s treatments for varicose veins are actually very much non-invasive, that wasn’t always the case. In fact varicose vein treatments and spider vein treatments have come a long way. People have been suffering from varicose veins for thousands and thousands of years though, in fact, “varicose” comes from a Greek word meaning “grapelike,” and was first thought to have been used as a medical term by Hippocrates in 460 BC.

During the times of ancient Egyptians, varicose veins were referred to as “Serpentine Windings” and weren’t to be operated on because, well, their procedures for varicose vein removal weren’t successful. (Patients would die after the incisions lead to hemorrhaging.)

Hippocrates didn’t recommend excision (maybe because the technology for such a procedure wasn’t developed yet) but instead compression from multiple punctures. But later, Roman physician Celcus (who lived between 25BC and 14 AD) wrote a medical document that described ligation surgery, surgical excision and their possible complications.

And few years after that, the Greek physician Galen also described phlebectomies (a procedure still practiced today), in which he would make incisions with a hooked tool to extract as much of the vein as possible. Roman surgeons around the same time period would carry out similar procedures. All of this was done without anesthesia though, and the Roman tyrant Caius Marius was noted as saying the “cure” wasn’t worth the pain.

During his life (930–1313 AD), the Arab surgeon Albucacis wrote one of the most extensive medical textbooks, going into detail about vein stripping. His descriptions are actually very similar to modern varicose vein treatments.

Much later – in the mid 1600’s – intravenous drugs were introduced, and iron or iodine was injected into the veins. But because of complications – like inflammation and swelling – this practice was abandoned by the 1890’s.

Then, in the 20th century, the stripping of varicose veins was conducted with strippers or Keller wire, but procedures were crude and lead to scarring and other cosmetically unappealing outcomes. It’s a treatment method that’s still used today by some physicians who are not true vein specialists. However, vein stripping is mostly now obsolete and has been replaced by less invasive procedures.

In 1916, crossectomy was introduced – this process removes the vein at its origin in the groin area – and is still used as a standard treatment today.

Treatments today include laser systems which blast the vein with heat and cleaned-up alternatives to the outdated treatment methods. For instance, sclerotherapy has replaced iodine and iron injections, and the venefit procedure has replaced the traditional vein stripping. The phlebectomies Galen first described are still completed today, but are done with more precise instruments, so patients no longer have to be put under general anesthesia and complete recovery happens a lot faster.

As you can see, the treatments for varicose veins has changed a lot within the last few hundred years. Instead of life-threatening complications, getting rid of varicose veins is now minimally invasive and result in long-lasting termination of the unsightly veins. If you want to be treated by the best of the best in the industry – something we’re sure Caius Marius would have been thankful for – contact Dr. Gosin and the team at Shore Vascular & Vein Center by calling (609) 927-VEIN (8346) or visit their Somers Point office, and you’ll be cared for by experts in the industry.

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