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Published on June 26, 2012

Healing Vein Strains: Variety of Treatment Options Available at Lawrence Vein Center

Dale Denning, MD fixing varicose veins with minimally invasive procedures.

Robert Zimmerer's legs before receiving treatment at Lawrence Vein Center.

Read Karrey Britt’s story here.

Lawrence resident Michele Reeves says her legs look and feel 15 years younger after having treatment done at the Lawrence Vein Center.

This summer, she’s even wearing shorts again.

"It’s like it gave me my legs back," she said. "It’s just amazing."

Before treatment, Reeves said her legs would itch and swell, especially in warm weather.

"It had gotten to the point where it was uncomfortable for me. I had started to alter my lifestyle, trying to compensate for the discomfort," she said. "I don’t think I even realized how many changes that I had made in my life to accommodate my leg problem until I went through the procedure and recovery."

Robert Zimmerer's legs after receiving treatment at Lawrence Vein Center.

Reeves said she would take frequent breaks to get off her feet and elevate them. Sometimes, she would use ice on her legs to alleviate the pain.

She decided to get a free vein screening during a health fair at Lawrence Memorial Hospital, and then she scheduled a full evaluation. She decided to have her left leg treated one year ago and her right leg done in March.

Reeves described the treatments as virtually painless. She said Dr. Dale Denning, a general surgeon and medical director of the Lawrence Vein Center, was conversational during the procedures and answered all of her questions. Both of the procedures were done in the center on an outpatient basis. She was able to return to normal activities right way. The only requirement was she had to wear a compression stocking.

"I’m back on track," said Reeves, who is in her early 40s.

•••

Denning said he decided to open the Lawrence Vein Center in 2005 after seeing so many patients who had developed ulcers and sores on their legs from venous disease while working at the Wound Healing Center. He knew there were minimally invasive ways of treating them, but none were available in Lawrence.

So Denning, who had been a general surgeon for 20 years, received additional training on treating vein disorders.

He said about 75 million people, or about 25 percent of the American population, has some form of venous disease. Women are at higher risk of getting varicose veins because of the hormonal changes that occur during pregnancy, pre-menstruation or menopause. Other risk factors include family history, occupations that require standing or sitting for long periods of time, obesity and age.

Denning said he’s provided vein treatment for a variety of ages, from a 14-year-old boy to a 92-year-old woman.

He also does procedures for cosmetic reasons; for example, to remove spider veins, and he treats veins from head to toe.

"I don’t just deal with legs, so if you’ve got veins on your hands, arms, chest, or face that you don’t like, I do that as well," he said.

The Lawrence Vein Center is unique in that it’s a one-stop shop for vein treatment because Denning is qualified to do everything from surgeries to minimally-invasive procedures with just an injection.

"What has really kind of revolutionized vein care is how we diagnose it and the test and studies that we do ahead of time," he said.

Before, if there was a bulging varicose vein, he would take the patient to the operating room with minimal testing in the office and do a relatively blind procedure called vein stripping, where he would make small incisions and pull the vein out. The procedure would cause a lot of pain and swelling and also interrupt the veins nearby.

"It was a lot more traumatic than what we do now," he said.

Now, he does a physical examination, takes photos and then maps out where the problem is starting and what’s causing it. Patients also have an ultrasound done, which takes about 45 minutes for one leg.

"Everyone that comes in is a jigsaw puzzle, and I have to fit the pieces together," he said.

He said most insurance plans will cover the procedures unless they are cosmetic.

Denning said he does the procedures in the center and they are done with local anesthesia.

"They can listen to whatever music they want to," he said. "We try to make it as low key as we can for the patient."

Denning sees about 18 patients per day and does about 25 procedures per month.

Robert Zimmerer, 66, of rural Lawrence, recently had his varicose veins treated by Denning. He said he was reluctant to seek help because his mother had them and he watched her undergo the vein stripping procedure, which required a hospital stay.

"It was a big deal, so I just said, ’I’m not ready for this,’" he said.

He said the bulging veins bothered his four young grandchildren when he would see them. They would ask him if they hurt and if he was OK.

Finally, his wife nudged him into seeking treatment, and he was surprised by how painless it was. He had both legs treated in January on an outpatient basis, and he called the recovery uneventful.

Zimmerer said his legs don’t itch and he can walk and not get tired. They also look better. He can’t wait to see his grandchildren, who live out of state, this summer.

"I think they will be quite surprised, as will everybody in the family, because this has been obvious for many, many years."

SYMPTOMS AND TREATMENT

Symptoms

Dr. Dale Denning, founder of Lawrence Vein Center, said people may not have symptoms with varicose veins. Most people identify varicose veins by the appearance of twisted, swollen, bluish veins just beneath the skin.

Mild symptoms may include:

  • A dull ache, burning, or heaviness in the legs. These symptoms may be more noticeable late in the day or after you have been sitting or standing for a long time.
  • Mild swelling, usually involving the feet and ankles only.
  • Itching skin over the varicose vein.

More severe symptoms or complications include:

  • A buildup of fluid and swelling in the leg.
  • Significant swelling and calf pain after sitting or standing for a long time.
  • Skin color changes around the ankles and lower legs.
  • Dry, stretched, swollen, itching, or scaling skin.
  • Superficial thrombophlebitis, which is when a blood clot and inflammation develop in a small vein near the surface of the skin.
  • Open sores (ulcerations).
  • Bleeding and/or bruising after a minor injury.

Treatment

The goals of varicose vein treatment are to reduce symptoms and prevent complications. For some, the goal may be improved appearance.

Home treatment — such as exercising and wearing compression stockings — is the first approach. If home treatment does not help, there are procedures or a surgery that can treat varicose veins. These include:

• Sclerotherapy. A chemical is injected into a varicose vein to damage and scar the inside lining of the vein, causing the vein to close. This usually works best for small veins.

• Laser treatment. Laser energy is used to scar and destroy varicose veins.

• Radiofrequency, or closure, treatment. Radiofrequency energy is used inside a vein to scar and close it off. It can be used to close off a large varicose vein in the leg.

• Phlebectomy. Several tiny cuts are made in the skin through which the varicosed vein is removed.

• Ligation and stripping. Incisions are made over the varicose veins, and the vein is tied off and removed.

ABOUT THE VEIN CENTER

Lawrence Vein Center is located in the Fourth Street Health Plaza building, at the northwest corner of Maine and Fourth streets.

To make an appointment or for more information, contact 856-8346 or email the veincenter.

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