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Don’t I need my saphenous vein for future heart surgery or other reasons?

July 30, 2018

From Colorado’s Vein Expert: Answering common questions patients ask about veins

One common question asked at Albert Vein Institute (AVI) by our patients is “Don’t I need my saphenous vein?” The function of the saphenous vein is to protect the skin veins from the mildly increased pressure in the deep veins. Unfortunately family history, pregnancy, excessive standing, and advanced age cause the saphenous vein to deteriorate. The saphenous vein is like your appendix in the sense that if it is not functioning properly then you do not need it anymore.  Most varicose vein procedures involve endovenous ablation in order to gently destroy the saphenous vein.

 

98% of the blood returning to the heart from your legs does so through other leg veins in the deep system – so if the saphenous vein is not functioning properly, and left untreated, the venous circulation in the legs is less efficient and can lead to bigger problems. By not treating the diseased saphenous vein, you can develop uncomfortable symptoms like pain, swelling, skin changes, and non-healing wounds on your leg.

 

Patients also ask, “What happens if I need a vein for heart surgery down the road?” As AVI’s practicing physician, as well as a double Board Certified Cardiovascular Surgeon and Phlebologist who practiced heart surgery for more than 20 years, I would never destroy a vein that could functionally be used for coronary bypass surgery. If you are having your saphenous vein treated to resolve your varicose vein problems, then this same vein would be too diseased to use for heart surgery anyway. I frequently identify that the saphenous vein in patients with superficial venous insufficiency is not usable for coronary bypass.  Furthermore, there are other vessels that can be used if the saphenous vein is diseased or has previously been treated.

 

In fact, patients who have had their saphenous vein harvested for coronary bypass surgery can still have problems with varicose veins. This difficulty can occur because only part of the saphenous vein was removed for heart surgery, while the remaining part of the vessel goes on to become diseased.

Author: Dr. James D. Albert, RPVI

Posted in Doctor's Quarterly, Uncategorized by Albert Vein Institute ©2016