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BMJ Group Medical Reference


This information is for people who have varicose veins. It tells you about surgery, a treatment used for varicose veins. It is based on the best and most up-to-date research.

Does it work?

Yes. If you have varicose veins, having surgery to remove them will probably make your legs look much better and help symptoms like aches, heaviness, cramps, and itching.

Bear in mind that your varicose veins may come back after surgery, and you may get new ones. This is less likely to happen after surgery than after injections. But surgery has more risks than injections.

What is it?

If you have this treatment, your varicose veins will be removed in an operation. Your doctor may recommend that you have an operation if you have large varicose veins or veins that are causing problems, such as pain or sores on your legs (ulcers). We've prepared some extra information for people thinking of having surgery. To read more, see Surgery to remove varicose veins.

There are several different ways to remove varicose veins.

Tying off and stripping the vein

This is the most common operation. It involves tying off and stripping the main surface vein that runs up the inside of your leg. Doctors call this operation ligation and stripping.

During this operation, doctors make one cut along the crease in your groin, and one cut lower down your leg, usually on the inside of your knee. If you're having the whole vein removed, the lower cut is made at your ankle. Doctors then tie off (ligate) the main surface vein that runs from your ankle to your thigh. This cuts off its blood supply. Then the vein is pulled out through the lower cut (stripped).

The surgeon will usually remove only the part of the vein between your groin and your knee. Sometimes, the whole vein is taken out from between your groin to your ankle. But that doesn't happen so often. Alternatively, the surgeon may tie off your vein but not remove it. The vein is left in your leg, but it doesn't bulge because blood can't flow through it.

Sometimes, the surgeon doesn't pull out the vein through a cut that is lower down your leg. Instead, the surgeon makes only one cut at the top of your leg and removes the vein through that cut. This is called inversion stripping, because as the vein comes out it turns inside out (inverts). Because there is only one cut with this operation, it should be less painful than the standard operation to tie off and strip your vein. And, if you have inversion stripping, you should recover more quickly.

Making small cuts along your leg

When there are many varicose veins to remove, doctors can make lots of tiny cuts along your leg where the veins are. They then use a hook to pull out bits of your veins through your skin. Doctors call this avulsion. It's often combined with tying off and stripping the main vein.

Sucking out small veins
Last Updated: May 01, 2012
This information does not replace medical advice.  If you are concerned you might have a medical problem please ask your Boots pharmacy team in your local Boots store, or see your doctor.

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