Chronic Venous Insufficiency

Chronic venous insufficiency occurs when your leg veins don’t allow blood to flow back up to your heart. Normally, the valves in your veins make sure that blood flows toward your heart. But when these valves don’t work well, blood can also flow backwards. As a result, blood can collect (pool) in your legs.

While chronic venous insufficiency is not a serious health threat, it can be painful and disabling if left untreated, causing symptoms such as varicose veins, leg ulcers, swelling, and skin changes.

Fortunately, the vascular and endovascular surgeons at Cooper University Health Care have extensive experience in successfully treating chronic venous insufficiency using today’s most advanced techniques.

Why Choose Cooper to Treat Chronic Venous Insufficiency?

You’re in good hands at Cooper. Through their specialized training and experience, our vascular surgeons are uniquely qualified to provide both minimally invasive endovascular approaches as well as traditional open surgical solutions to treat chronic venous insufficiency.

You can count on us for:

  • Thorough evaluation and diagnosis: This includes a complete medical history, physical examination and an imaging test called a duplex ultrasound to evaluate the blood flow and structure of your leg veins
  • Individualized treatment: Based on your age, overall health and severity of your condition, a treatment plan will be tailored to your individual needs and situation. Treatment may include:
    • Conservative measures to improve blood flow in your leg veins, which can include keeping your legs raised (elevated) to reduce swelling, wearing compression stockings, and regular exercise  
    • Medicines that increase blood flow through the vessels (such as aspirin) may be used along with compression therapy to help heal leg ulcers. Diuretics that draw excess fluid from the body through the kidneys may be used if other conditions, such as heart failure or kidney disease, are also linked to the swelling.
    • Endovenous laser ablation or radiofrequency ablation (RFA), a minimally invasive procedure in which a slim tube (catheter) delivers heat to the affected vein, causing it to close, so less blood pools and overall blood flow is improved
    • Sclerotherapy may be used if your condition is more serious. A chemical is injected into the affected veins, which causes scarring so the veins can no longer carry blood. Blood is rerouted to the heart through other veins, and the body absorbs the scarred veins.
    • Surgery is performed in severe cases. Ligation is a type of surgery that may be used. The affected vein is tied off so that blood no longer flows through it; the vein eventually is absorbed by the body. If the vein or its valves are heavily damaged, the vein will be removed; this is called vein stripping.

Chronic Venous Insufficiency Causes and Risk Factors

You are more likely to have chronic venous insufficiency if you:

  • Are overweight
  • Are pregnant
  • Have a family history of the condition
  • Had damage to your leg due to injury, surgery, or previous blood clots

Other causes of chronic venous insufficiency include:

  • High blood pressure in the leg veins over time, due to sitting or standing for long periods
  • Lack of exercise
  • Smoking
  • A blood clot in a deep vein, often in the calf or thigh (deep vein thrombosis, or DVT)
  • Swelling and inflammation of a vein close to the skin, often in the legs (phlebitis)

Chronic Venous Insufficiency Symptoms

The symptoms of chronic venous insufficiency may include:

  • Swelling in your legs or ankles
  • Tight feeling in your calves or itchy, painful legs
  • Pain when walking that stops when you rest (intermittent claudication) 
  • Brown-colored skin, often near the ankles
  • Varicose veins 
  • Leg ulcers that are sometimes hard to treat
  • Having an uncomfortable feeling in your legs and an urge to move your legs (restless legs syndrome, or RLS)
  • Painful leg cramps or muscle spasms (charley horse)

Because many of these symptoms can be due to other medical conditions, it’s important to have a thorough evaluation by a vascular surgeon.

Contact Us

To learn more about the services available in the Division of Vascular and Endovascular Surgery or to schedule an appointment, please call 856.342.2151.

Refer a Patient

If you are a doctor who wants to refer a patient to the Division of Vascular and Endovascular Surgery, please call 856.968.7067.