Vein Stripping vs. Interventional Radiology

Vein problems may seem merely cosmetic to the outsider, but for many sufferers, the issues may be a sign of much larger medical conditions. One such  condition is called venous insufficiency, and is caused by reduced blood flow in the legs. This results in painful pooling of blood in veins, leading to varicose veins. This condition affects almost half the population over 50 years of age, and a quarter of all adults. Complications from venous insufficiency can cause life-threatening, non-healing wounds and other serious symptoms. All of these conditions can be treated with traditional surgical methods, or by newer, less invasive procedures.

Varicose & Spider Veins

In addition to being unsightly, varicose veins come with a number of painful or uncomfortable issues. Cramping, throbbing muscles, puffiness and wounds that are slow to heal are just some of the complications that can accompany varicose veins. Those who have complicating factors like diabetes, obesity, a history of smoking or advanced age are at higher risk for developing varicose veins. 

Treatment Options

Not long ago, the only treatment option for these vein issues was vein stripping. This surgical procedure is effective, but also an extensive surgical procedure. It often requires lengthy hospitalization, which makes it difficult for many working people to take the time to both have surgery and properly heal. The approval of a new technique in 2002, Ablative Interventional Radiology, opened the possibility for varicose vein mitigation to a much larger group of clientele. 

A look at some of differences between vein stripping and interventional radiology:


Vein stripping is much like it sounds. It is a surgical procedure where the varicose veins are detached from the system and removed. Surrounding veins are clamped off to prevent leaking. Interventional radiology is an outpatient surgery. A fiber optic line is fished into the vein through a pinhole and used to navigate the inside of the vascular system. A laser is then used to seal off the bad vein from the system of good ones, resulting in a much less invasive procedure. 


Vein stripping requires a stay in the hospital, anesthesia and a surgical team to remove the veins of concern. Patients who have interventional radiology treatments are required to only take a few hours of their time to come into the office. Once the procedure is complete, they can go home and resume their daily activities after a short recovery period. 


The cost of vein stripping is substantially more since it requires many more medical resources. By doing a vein stripping surgery, the patient will need to pay for a hospital stay, all the monitoring staff, such as a surgeon, and anesthesiologist, and proper after care monitoring checkups. Interventional radiology is done in an outpatient center and requires only local anesthetic. Most insurance carriers also cover it. 

After Care 

Vein stripping often requires six weeks of no activity to heal properly. This often requires the additional time of a caregiver or family member to ensure that the patient stays off their feet during recovery as much as possible. Incisions need regular wound care to ensure that they heal without infection, and there is a regimen of prescription grade pharmaceuticals to mitigate the pain of healing from invasive surgery. Those who have interventional radiology are often home the same day, or have a very limited hospital stay. They are on light duty for a few days, but often can resume their regular activities within one week.

The opportunities that interventional radiology have provided for patients are enormous. The reduced healing time and microscopic, targeted healing have made this procedure more affordable and logistically possible for full-time workers who don’t have medical leave, or caregivers who don’t have others to care for them.

If you have further questions about how interventional radiology differs from vein stripping, call MIIGS at 318-445-9700 or visit our website for more information.