10 Tips for Recovering From Varicose Vein Surgery

Doctor William C Lloyd Healthgrades Medical Reviewer
Medically Reviewed By William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Written By Diana Rodriguez on November 22, 2020
  • Older woman stretching on floor
    Prepare Now for an Easier Recovery Later
    Vein surgery is one way to deal with thick, tangled varicose veins on your legs. Many procedures can ease the pain and appearance of these veins. Sometimes, though, the best solution is surgery to remove them. When that's what the doctor orders, follow these steps to prepare in advance. It should help you have a smooth recovery afterward.
  • Doctor examining woman's leg
    1. Have a pre-surgery office visit.
    Before the surgery, your doctor will go over your medical history and give you a physical exam. You may have a few tests to make sure you're healthy enough for surgery. Your doctor should give you a list of things to do to get ready for the procedure. Be sure to look it over while still at your doctor's office. Ask for more information if anything is unclear. Also find out if you should wear your compression stockings to the hospital on the day of your surgery.
  • Nurse applying bandage to leg
    2. Understand the type of surgery you're having.
    The traditional surgery for very severe varicose veins is vein stripping and ligation. Ambulatory phlebectomy is another technique to remove varicose veins. Doctors make a tiny incision and remove the vein through this cut. There's also a procedure called PIN stripping. It uses fewer incisions. You also may only need an injection to numb your leg instead of IV medication that puts you to sleep. Recovery time may be shorter with PIN stripping and ambulatory phlebectomy. Ask your doctor what type of surgery would be best for you—and why. Make sure you talk about recovery, too. 
  • Social history form
    3. Go over lifestyle changes.
    When you meet with your doctor, ask if there are any changes you should make before the surgery. For instance, if you smoke you should you quit because tobacco can delay healing. Go over all medications, herbs and supplements you take. Some could affect how you respond to anesthesia. Others could make bleeding more of a risk. You may have to stop taking some the day before your surgery or even sooner. Also find out when you can start taking them again.
  • Older female patient in wheelchair
    4. Plan your ride home.
    You can probably go home the same day as your surgery, but this will take some planning. You'll be groggy and cannot drive after having anesthesia. So, arrange for someone to drive you home. This person might need to pick up some prescriptions for you, too. You also should have someone stay with you for at least the first 24 hours. You'll need to take it easy for a while, so plan for that. Take care of to-do's around the house before your surgery. This includes anything that requires heavy lifting. If you live alone, make sure there's someone you can call if you need help.
  • Older woman on couch reading tablet
    5. Get home safely after surgery.
    You'll want to protect your legs. Sit in the back seat of the car for the ride home after your surgery. Sit sideways so you can stretch out your legs across the seat. Even if you feel steady, have the person who drove you home help you get out of the car and into your home. Once you're home, prop up your feet on pillows when sitting in a chair or on your couch. This will help with circulation. 
  • Medicines in hand
    6. Have a plan to manage pain.
    Expect to feel tired and sore. Your leg may hurt at the site of the stitches. Make sure to follow all of your doctor's instructions for care at home. This includes taking any prescribed medication according to the recommended schedule. Put an ice pack on your leg for a few minutes at a time to ease pain and swelling. Be sure to put a cloth between the ice pack and your skin. Use extra pillows when in bed to make your legs more comfortable. 
  • Close-up of running shoes
    7. Exercise and stretch.
    It's important to keep blood flowing through your legs as you recover. Pump your ankles about three to four times. You should do this about every 10 minutes. Once each hour, walk around for 10 to 15 minutes at a time. You can start as soon as you get home from the hospital. This helps reduce your risk for a blood clot. Do a little more exercise every day as you feel stronger.
  • tech savvy doctor talking to patient
    8. Be aware of possible problems.
    Make sure you know the signs and symptoms of serious complications from the surgery. Watch for worsening pain, redness, or swelling in your leg. These could be signs of infection or a blood clot. Call your doctor immediately if your leg bleeds, you run a fever, or if you have symptoms of a clot. It's also possible—though rare—that the surgery will affect the nerve near the varicose vein. This can cause a tingling feeling or no feeling at all in your leg. Also, some people develop swelling in the leg that doesn't go away. Before you ever have surgery, ask your doctor to explain all the possibilities.
  • Woman applying compression bandage
    9. Keep your bandage dry.
    Your leg will be in a tight bandage for a few days after the surgery, so you won't be able to take a bath or a shower. You will likely wear a compression stocking on your other leg after surgery. These tight stockings help keep blood flowing in your legs. This helps prevent varicose veins from forming again. Other simple steps can help prevent new problems. Once your doctor clears it, regular exercise will help build stronger muscles in your legs and improve blood flow. Lose weight if you are overweight. Avoid standing up for long periods without a break. When you sit, keep both feet flat on the floor.
  • Class of women exercising
    10. Take it slow for a while.
    Don't drive for at least three days. If your doctor prescribed narcotic pain medicine, do not drive while you're on it. It usually takes one to four weeks to heal after varicose vein surgery. During that time, you'll probably need to avoid or limit many of your usual activities. Don't lift anything heavy or do any vigorous exercise for at least two weeks. However, everyone heals differently. Rely on your doctor to tell you when it's safe for you to get back to your normal routine.
10 Tips for Recovering From Varicose Vein Surgery
Varicose Vein Removal
  1. Blood Clots. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. http://www.mayoclinic.org/symptoms/blood-clots/basics/when-to-see-doctor/sym-20050850
  2. How Are Varicose Veins Treated? National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/vv/treatment
  3. Treatment. American College of Phlebology. http://www.phlebology.org/patient-information/conditions-treatments/treatment#surgery
  4. Treatment for Varicose Veins. University of Wisconsin Health. http://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/treatments_and_procedures/hic_Pain_Control_after_Surgery
  5. Varicose Vein Treatment (Endovenous Ablation of Varicose Veins). Radiological Society of North America. http://www.radiologyinfo.org/en/info.cfm?pg=varicoseabl
  6. Varicose Veins. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/varicose-veins/diagnosis-treatment/treatment/txc-20178...
  7. Varicose Veins. University of California San Francisco. http://surgery.ucsf.edu/conditions--procedures/varicose-veins.aspx
  8. Varicose Veins and Spider Veins. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.  https://www.womenshealth.gov/publications/our-publications/fact-sheet/varicose-spider-veins.html#J
  9. Venous Disease: Vein Stripping and Ligation. Cleveland Clinic. http://my.clevelandclinic.org/services/heart/services/venous-disease-treatments/venous-disease-vein-...
  10. What You Need to Know About Pain Control After Surgery. Cleveland Clinic. http://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/treatments_and_procedures/hic_Pain_Control_after_Surgery

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Last Review Date: 2020 Nov 22
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