Frequently Asked Questions

» What are varicose veins?

Veins are blood vessels that return deoxygenated blood from the outer parts of the body to the heart. Varicose veins can occur when the valves in the leg veins become weak or diseased and no longer function properly, causing blood to pool. This abnormal collection will push the vein walls outward, causing the vein to enlarge and bulge. Symptoms of varicose veins include pain, swelling, aching, throbbing, burning, cramping and heaviness.

» What are spider veins?

Spider veins are like varicose veins, but smaller and closer to the surface of the skin. Often they are red or blue in appearance and can look like tree branches or spider webs with their short, jagged lines. They can be found on the legs and can cover very small or very large areas of skin.

» What is vein disease (venous reflux disease)?

Vein disease, also referred to as venous reflux disease, is defined as the weakening of the vein walls and valves. Weak walls and valves often result in the backflow of blood, causing pooling and increased pressure. Veins carry deoxygenated blood from the outer parts of the body back to the heart and lungs. Blood in the legs has to fight against gravity as it travels up the leg, so healthy walls and valves are integral to preventing the backflow of blood.

Please arrange to have a driver following your endovenous ablation procedure. Your driver is required to be with you at check-in. Then, once we begin the procedure, he or she may leave and return pick you up later.

Shower and wash your legs thoroughly the day of the procedure. Do NOT apply lotion, cream or powder to your legs. Bring loose fitting pants to wear home.

» What are symptoms of vein disease?

Visual symptoms like bulging or rope-like varicose veins can be signs of vein disease. However, vein disease can be present in individuals with no visible symptoms. Less noticeable signs include:

  • Fatigued, heaving-feeling legs
  • Leg pain, especially caused by periods of prolonged standing or sitting
  • Swollen ankles, especially at the end of the day or after periods of prolonged standing or sitting
  • Itching, cramping, burning or tingling in the legs and/or feet
  • Discoloration of the skin
  • Leg cramps that wake you up at night
  • Family history and/or personal history of symptomatic varicose veins

The onset of vein disease can be gradual or rapid. In most cases, there is a family history of vein disease. But individuals who have even one of these symptoms may be at risk for vein disease, and we urge you to schedule a consultation for a thorough evaluation.

» How is vein disease diagnosed?

Vein disease is diagnosed through a physical examination and a venous ultrasound. An ultrasound is used to evaluate the blood flow within the veins. This diagnostic test enables our physicians to determine the direction of the blood flow and identify venous reflux. If you do have venous reflux, your interventional radiologists will discuss available treatment options.

» What should I do if I just have spider veins, or varicose veins that don't hurt?

Over 75 million Americans have vein disease, and a large percentage of those are unaware. Many people mistakenly believe their vein problems are just cosmetic, when in fact there is a significant underlying vascular problem that is causing the asymptomatic varicose veins and/or spider veins. We recommend an ultrasound test to evaluate the blood flow within your veins. This simple test can be performed during your initial consultation.

» What type of physician will I see at the Charlotte Radiology Vein Center?

All of our patients are seen by a specialist from our Interventional team. All of our physicians are board-certified in interventional radiology.

» What is an interventional radiologist?

An interventional radiologist is a minimally-invasive specialist. These physicians are experts in performing target treatments using imaging guidance. Interventional radiology procedures, including endovenous ablation, often replace more invasive surgical procedures. They are generally easier for the patient because they involve no large incisions, less risk of surgical infection, less pain and shorter recovery times.

» What type of patients and vein problems do you typically see at the Charlotte Radiology Vein Center?

We treat both men and women, typically between the ages of 25 and 75, with a variety of medical issues. The majority of our patients present with one or more of the following:

  • Severe leg pain or swelling
  • Bulging, rope-like varicosities
  • Leg cramping, often during the night or after periods of prolonged standing or sitting
  • Aching, throbbing, itchy, numb, burning or fatigued legs
  • Cosmetic vein concerns on legs

» Will insurance or Medicare cover my varicose vein treatment?

Most insurance companies and Medicare recognize vein disease as a valid medical expense and will cover the cost of the treatment after a period of conservative therapy. If you are experiencing any symptoms of vein disease, it is worthwhile to find out whether your insurance will cover the treatment cost. At the Charlotte Radiology Vein Centers, we have a dedicated coordinator onsite to help patients obtain insurance approvals.  We also recommend that you verify your benefits with your insurance provider.

» What happens during my initial consultation at the Charlotte Radiology Vein Center?

During your initial consultation, you will meet with one of our interventional radiologists to review your medical history and discuss your concerns and expectations. Once your physician has gauged your symptoms, he or she may then recommend a comprehensive ultrasound to map your veins and decipher any venous reflux disease. Your physician will discuss the results of your diagnostic test, as well as your treatment options.

» What treatments are available for Varicose Veins?

Endovenous ablation and MD Sclerotherapy is a minimally-invasive treatment option for patients who suffer from painful and unsightly varicose veins. This technique offers a high success rate of 98% and significant advantages over traditional methods. The entire procedure, from start to finish, takes about an hour and brings very little to no pain. Using ultrasound guidance, your physician will insert a small optic fiber into the varicose vein. Once the laser is activated, it heats the vein; then, as the laser is removed from the vein, it closes the vein. Once the vein is closed, the blood that was circulating though the impaired vein is naturally rerouted to other healthy veins.

» What treatments are available for spider veins?

RN Sclerotherapy is the most common cosmetic treatment for non-painful varicose veins and spider veins. Your physician will use a needle to inject a liquid chemical into the spider vein. This agent causes the vein walls to swell, stick together, and seal shut.  Most patients can return to normal activity right after treatment. You may be asked to wear compression stockings after sclerotherapy to help with healing and decrease swelling.

Smaller spider veins typically take three to six weeks to become lighter or disappear, while larger veins may take up to three to four months. Some veins may require more than one treatment to achieve the desired outcome. And while treated veins will not reappear, sclerotherapy will not prevent new veins from appearing; therefore, future treatments may be required.

» How do I prepare for my varicose vein treatment?

At Charlotte Radiology we provide you with a dedicated vein services team. Our Vein Services Coordinator will be your first point of contact and will serve as the ongoing liaison between physician and patient. This coordinator is available to help schedule appointments and obtain insurance approvals. Prior to your endovenous ablation treatment, you will be required to purchase prescription-strength compression stockings. It is important to have your prescription filled a week prior, unless otherwise instructed by your physician, or if required by your insurance company for conservative therapy, in order to allow extra time in the event your size is not in stock and needs to be reordered. If you already have compression stockings, please bring them to your consultation so that we may confirm they are adequate.

Please arrange to have a driver following your endovenous ablation procedure. Your driver is required to be with you at check-in. Then, once we begin the procedure, he or she may leave and return to pick you up later.

Shower and wash your legs thoroughly the day of the procedure. Do NOT apply lotion, cream or powder to your legs. Bring loose fitting pants to wear home.

Charlotte Radiology is concerned about the quality of care we provide for our patients. For this reason, children who are not here as patients are not permitted in the treatment areas and should not be left unattended in the waiting room. No children under the age of 10 can be left unattended in the waiting area. For children between the ages of 10 - 18, the parent will be required to sign a "Waiver of Liability" for children who are left in the waiting room unsupervised during a patient's examination. If a patient shows up with a dependent child under the age of 10, the patient will be asked to reschedule their appointment to another time when they are able to find suitable child care for their procedure. Patients are responsible for the care and conduct of their children at all times. The Charlotte Radiology staff is not permitted to watch or care for any child during a patient's examination.

» What should I expect during my varicose vein treatment?

Endovenous ablation is a procedure that takes about 45- 60 minutes; however, the entire appointment will last approximately two- three hours. Endovenous ablation uses laser energy or radiofrequency delivered in a thin wire to treat the underlying cause of the varicose veins. Performed under ultrasound guidance, the procedure uses strictly local anesthetic.

Prior to the procedure you will be given a mild sedative, Xanax or Valium, to help you relax without putting you to sleep. You will be awake and comfortable during the procedure. We will mark your vein using ultrasound to prep you for the procedure. During the procedure, the area of the leg affected is locally anesthetized or numbed using Lidocaine, and a small catheter is inserted. You will then be injected with a diluted solution of Lidocaine along the vein, from the insertion site to the groin area. Next a thin wire is inserted into the catheter and pulled down the saphenous vein to the injection site; this may take one to three minutes, depending on the length of the vein. The wire is then withdrawn from the body, which closes the impaired vein, and a small dressing will be placed on your insertion site. Your body will naturally use other healthy veins to return blood to the heart. We will help you put on your compression hose, and then you may get dressed. You will be asked to walk on a treadmill for 20 minutes.

Without the complications of more invasive surgery, results of endovenous ablation have been extremely favorable, with success rates as high as 98%. Endovenous ablation will normally treat the cause of most varicose veins; however, in some cases patients may require additional therapies or procedures to complete the treatment plan. Often this additional treatment is sclerotherapy, which is also available at the Charlotte Radiology Vein Centers.

» What happens after my varicose vein procedure?

Following your endovenous ablation procedure, you must wear your compression stockings and dressings for the first 24 hours to help healing and decrease swelling. After 24 hours, you may remove the stockings and dressing to bathe and sleep; however, you must wear the compression stockings at all other times over the course of two weeks. You may resume normal activity after your procedure, but no strenuous or heavy lifting for two weeks. If you experience any discomfort, you may take Tylenol or ibuprofen. Soreness will likely disappear after 24 hours. Mild soreness may last for seven to 10 days.

To evaluate the success of your procedure, you will be scheduled for an ultrasound two weeks after completion.

» How do I prepare for my spider vein treatment?

If you think you may be pregnant or if you are breast feeding, please notify the Vein Nurse.

Do not drink any alcoholic beverages 48 hours prior to the procedure.

For your comfort, bring a pair of shorts to wear during the procedure. If you have compression stockings, please bring them with you so that we may determine whether they will provide adequate support after the procedure.

» What should I expect during my spider vein treatment?

Sclerotherapy is performed in our outpatient vein clinic and takes around 30 minutes to complete. The number of veins treated per session depends on your medical condition, tolerance to the medication, and the size and location of the veins. During the procedure, a small needle containing an injection of polidocanol or sodium tetradecyl sterile solution is inserted directly into your vein. If you are allergic to lidocaine you may request a solution without it. You may experience some discomfort, pain or cramping when larger veins are treated. Some patients may feel slightly dizzy during the procedure; let the nurse or physician's assistant know so that he or she can slow the treatment process. After the procedure, we will help you put on your compression stockings.

» What happens after my sclerotherapy treatment?

You will be able to drive and resume regular activities after the treatment, and you are especially encouraged to walk. Please avoid strenuous activity for three days. Expect to have minimal to mild pain, bruising, cramping and swelling for the first 24 hours after therapy.
Some patients may experience the following side effects after sclerotherapy:

  • Larger injected varicose veins may become lumpy and hard for several months before resolving.
  • Raised red areas may appear at the treatment sites, but should disappear within a few days.
  • Brown lines or spots on the skin may be noted at the site of the injection, possibly caused by a form of iron that escapes from the injected veins. In most cases, they disappear within three to six months, but can be permanent in about 5% of cases.
  • Bruising may occur around the injection site and can last several days or weeks.

Other side effects rarely develop after sclerotherapy.

For best results follow these instructions:

Day 1-3:

  • You will need to wear compressing stockings to "compress" the treated vessels.
  • Take Tylenol or Ibuprofen as directed for any pain. Avoid aspirin.
  • Take over-the-counter Benadryl as directed for itching.
  • Use ice packs for especially sore areas.
  • Elevate legs for added pain relief.
  • Avoid strenuous activities such as high-impact aerobics, running or weight lifting.
  • Walk at least one hour per day.
  • Do not take hot baths or sit in a whirlpool or sauna or apply hot compresses or any form of heat to the injected areas.
  • A sponge bath or lukewarm shower is permitted.
  • Avoid direct exposure to sunlight (i.e., sunbathing and tanning beds).

Day 3 to Two Weeks:

  • Treated areas may be red-purple in color, with some bruising.
  • Use a triple-antibiotic ointment, per package instructions, on any ulcers or tape blisters.
  • Wear compression stockings during day hours for the next 14 days (put on in the morning and take off before bed).
  • You may shower, but continue to avoid hot baths and hot tubs, etc.
  • Resume normal athletic activities as tolerated.

» Which Charlotte Radiology Vein Center locations offer varicose and spider vein treatments?

We offer both varicose and spider vein treatments at our SouthPark and Lake Norman locations.

SouthPark Vein Center
Lake Norman Vein Center