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Varicose Vein Stripping

varicose veins should not be stripped anymore. The Whiteley Clinic never strips varicose veins


Since 1999 when Professor Mark Whiteley introduced into the UK a technique called endovenous laser ablation for varicose veins, The Whiteley Clinic has completely ceased performing the surgical technique of ‘vein stripping’. And today, the latest research validates our decision and suggests that this procedure should NEVER be performed.

Yet still, there are some clinics – including certain NHS hospitals – who persist in vein stripping, exposing their patients to unnecessary pain, prolonged recovery times and a vastly increased risk of recurrence.


What is ‘vein stripping’

Stripping is the method by which a main vein in the leg is removed, usually the Great Saphenous Vein (GSV) and the Small Saphenous Vein (SSV). An incision is made over the top of the vein, where it has a junction with a deeper vein, and the top of the vein is cut away and the stump tied (the “High Tie”). The vein then has a wire or ‘stripper’ passed down it, and this is brought to the surface lower down in the leg.

The vein is tied to the stripper and, when the stripper is removed, the vein is stripped out. Think that sounds barbaric and painful? It is.

Why vein stripping should no longer be performed

The technique of vein stripping:

  • greatly increases the risk of the vein growing back again
  • generates unnecessary incisions
  • causes unnecessary pain and bruising
  • requires unnecessary general anaesthetic
  • leads to increased recovery time off work

However, perhaps the best argument against vein stripping is simply that, under The Whiteley Clinic Protocol®, there is a far superior and contemporary ‘pin hole’ vein technique available – Endovenous Laser Ablation (EVLA) – which outperforms vein stripping in each of the above respects.

As the UK’s leading specialist varicose vein centre, we see a large number of patients who have previously had vein stripping surgery elsewhere. When, as they almost inevitably do, their varicose veins recur, we often find that the veins have grown back due to the stripping. Additionally, our superior investigation techniques also often reveal that more complex patterns of venous dysfunction – such as pelvic vein reflux feeding into the legs, or perforator vein incompetence – have been missed by surgeons adopting the more ‘traditional’ narrow approach to the condition.

As noted in our Varicose Veins treatment section, we combine EVLA as our lead technique with a range of complementary procedures to tailor a treatment plan for every individual patient to achieve the very best outcome.