Advanced vein treatment is sometimes necessary when blood vessels become damaged or blocked. Surgical procedures, such as vein transplants, are usually a last resort to treat vascular diseases.
Vascular disease refers to disease that affects the blood vessels. Diseases that specifically afflict the veins are known as venous diseases.
Veins are the blood vessels that carry blood to the heart to be oxygenized. The blood is pumped through the heart and then carried to the body via arteries. The process is continual, as long as vessels function as they are supposed to.
Problems can occur when these channels are unable to function as they should. Blood flows through them counter to gravity. This presents an added challenge that arteries do not have. Veins are equipped with valves in order to overcome the forces of gravity. These valves open to allow blood to be pushed upward. They close afterward so that blood doesn't flow backwards.
Sometimes these valves become sluggish, or simply stop functioning at all. When this happens, blood rushes backwards through the channel. This can create pooling of blood inside. It can even leak into the surrounding tissue.
Blood that flows in the wrong direction can result in a number of problems. One of these is varicose or spider veins. They appear on the legs like dark, thin lines just under the skin's surface. They may or may not be painful, but are often cosmetically undesirable.
More serious problems can also occur. Advanced vein disease in the legs, if left untreated, may eventually require limb amputation. Cardiovascular disease may lead to heart attack. Venous disease in the brain may result in stroke and dementia.
Vein transplant is just one of many treatments available for venous problems. Venous problems that are less extensive may respond to other types of therapy. Doctors usually suggest the least invasive kind of treatment(s) before resorting to surgical procedures. Other treatments include:
* Sclerotherapy: Liquid is injected into a diseased vessel. This causes it to shut down and seal off. Subsequent blood flow to the area is simply re-routed to other area vessels. Sometimes new ones are even generated. This type of treatment is usually only effective on smaller vessels.
* Laser therapy: This is another treatment that is used primarily to treat varicose veins.
* Compression stockings: These socks have graduated levels of compression. Compression is greatest (tightest) at the ankle and smallest at the calf. The stockings help to squeeze blood up the leg when vessel valves are insufficient.
* Surgery: Various surgical methods can be employed to actually remove a vessel altogether. Surgery is used only when other less invasive methods are not effective.
Vein transplant is one of the last options for vascular problems that cannot be treated effectively through other methods. It is an invasive surgical procedure, but is often highly effective.
This method is used mainly for replacing blocked arteries around the heart. It is sometimes a suitable alternative to by-pass surgery. A vein is taken from another part of a person's body (typically the leg or arm). It is then transplanted to the heart. Blood flow from damaged arteries is re-routed through it to the heart.
This therapy is possible since the body is full of thousands of blood vessels. These other channels simply take over for the one that has been removed. Sometimes, as has already been noted, new veins are also generated by the body.
Certain other conditions can also benefit from this type of surgery. It has been used to treat carpal tunnel syndrome. It's also employed in reconstructive surgery (i.e. following an accident or illness affecting vascular tissue.)
A patient must have relatively healthy veins in order to be able to undergo this type of advanced vein treatment. He or she must also be healthy enough to tolerate the surgical procedure itself. Patients with diabetes, hypertension or kidney disease may not be good candidates for vein transplant surgery.