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At Greater Pittsburgh Vascular Associates, Care of Varicose Veins Is a Specialty

By Nancy Kennedy

As a working mother with three children, Amy Herrlich, 31, of South Park, has a full and fulfilling life. She spends a lot of time on her feet, on the job and looking after Adriana, 6, and twins Grady and Oakley, 3; she needs to feel comfortable and strong as she navigates her busy days. When she began developing problems with varicose veins in both legs, she knew she had to find a solution that would treat the problem effectively and quickly. She found exactly that at Greater Pittsburgh Vascular Associates in Washington, PA, where board-certified interventional cardiologist Michael Brown, M.D., Medical Director, provides comprehensive, state-of-the-art diagnostic and therapeutic care for a broad range of cardiovascular problems. At GPVA, the care of peripheral vascular disease and venous disease is a specialty, with the latest technology and most advanced procedures available in six convenient locations.

Varicose veins are a common problem, and are more common in women than men; they tend to run in families, so Amy was not surprised when she began to develop them. “My mother and my sister both have them and so I expected that I would eventually get them too,” she says. “They began to appear in both legs in my early 20’s but they were not bothersome. I had no pain or discomfort.” That changed when Amy became pregnant. After each pregnancy, Amy’s varicose veins grew worse. “After my last pregnancy, I knew I had reached a point where I needed to take care of them. My legs were swollen and I experienced aching and throbbing all day. In addition, the veins were protruding in my thighs and lower legs.”

Varicose veins develop when the valves in the superficial leg veins fail to close completely and blood cannot be returned efficiently to the heart. It pools in the legs, distending the veins and causing swelling. Amy’s treatment began with a physical exam and ultrasound imaging to precisely identify the involved veins. Dr. Brown performed two procedures on Amy’s veins, one leg at a time. The procedure, known as ablation, is a safe, minimally invasive outpatient procedure that is performed right in the GPVA facility. The patient is given just a local anesthetic; there is no sedation, and no incision. From start to finish, the entire procedure takes under 30 minutes and the patient will spend about two hours total time at GPVA. Post-procedure, the patient will be able to walk out, wearing compression hose.

This approach to the treatment of varicose veins is dramatically different from earlier times, when “vein stripping” was major surgery, requiring anesthesia, a five-day admission, much more pain and a longer recovery. Cardiovascular surgeons can now offer highly effective treatment with minimal inconvenience and discomfort, in a single day. At GPVA, the entire range of treatment, from diagnosis through follow-up, takes place right at their facility. Although there is still a misconception that varicose veins are a minor nuisance or a cosmetic problem, the fact is that they are a medical problem that, if untreated, can lead to limited mobility, skin infections such as cellulitis, and ulcers.

Amy says that her experience at GPVA was entirely positive. “I highly recommend Dr. Brown. He is everything you could want in a doctor. He has a manner that inspires confidence; he has a great sense of humor that puts you at ease. I had about eight appointments, so I got to know many of the staff and they were always helpful and accommodating. I received excellent, personal care from everyone at GPVA.”

The only after-care that Amy required was compression stockings, which are custom-fitted and must be worn for two weeks. Her outcome, three months later, is excellent, and the likelihood of recurrence is very low. Amy is now pain-free; she’s happy that she chose to have her varicose veins treated, and that she chose GPVA and Dr. Michael Brown.

GPVA is part of Jefferson Cardiology Association. To learn more about the services provided in the new office, visit the web site, www.greaterpittsburghvascular.com. To make an appointment with Jefferson Cardiology Association or Greater Pittsburgh Vascular Associates, call (412) 469-1500.

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