Until recently more severe varicose veins were often treated with surgery. This is performed under a general anesthetic. The visible varicose veins, marked before the operation, are removed through a series of small cuts which are then closed with adhesive strips or stitches.

More importantly, a cut is commonly made in the groin over the top of the main varicose vein and the leaky valves are tied off (sometimes this is also done behind the knee). The cut in the groin is closed with a stitch, usually hidden under the skin. The vein in the thigh may also be removed (stripped) to reduce the risk of varicose veins returning, however blood can still flow up the leg along deeper, unaffected veins. The leg is then bandaged and placed in a full-length stocking for a week.

Operations can still be used to treat most varicose veins and a few patients with varicose veins are still best
treated by this type of surgery. Most patients are able to go home the same day after their operation, but you are not usually able to resume driving for 2 weeks, and it may take this long to resume your normal activities after surgery.

Complications of conventional surgery include occasional bleeding from the wounds, infection in the groin wound, deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and some numbness and/or pain in various places in the leg. These usually settle within a few months; rarely a small area of permanent numbness remains. Bruising, especially along the inner thigh is common in the first week or two after the operation and this can require painkillers until the inflammation eases. The scars on your legs will continue to fade for many months.

Learn more about conventional vein surgery (vein stripping).