Hello + welcome to this tiny space on the internet! I created this blog (+ changed the name twice since) 14 years ago as a creative outlet from my career in the emergency room as a PA. After spending the past 7 (or so) years on social media outlets, I have decided to delete all of the ones associated with this blog and get back to the heart of blogging.
This post does not provide medical advice. The information below is for informational purposes only. No material on this site is intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.
My journey with varicose veins is not done yet and I am sure that there will be more in my future but I wanted to write this post as I had many questions along the way. My process online has always focused on letting people know they are not alone, especially mothers. I am currently working on a different post where I focus on my emotional thoughts surrounding this experience, but for now – I will talk about the physical.
I will start off by saying that I do have a familial predisposition to varicose veins which very well may have contributed to some of this. I never experienced varicose veins before my third pregnancy. I had a few spider veins but nothing crazy. After my third, things went downhill pretty fast. My entire left leg was covered in varicosities and causing pain, swelling, and itching. These varicosities extended all the way up into my pelvic region. After my 4th, I knew I needed to do something about it. My symptoms were significantly exacerbated during my menses and it made it impossible to sit comfortably (nevermind trying to cycle when working out).
My first step was seeing a vascular surgeon who was known for treating varicose veins. I should have known from the very first visit that this route was a bad idea. I saw the surgeon for approximately 5 minutes and he told me that I needed to have an endovenous ablation (closes off the saphenous vein in the lower leg). This vein can be used down the road as a bypass conduit. I preferably wanted to keep this vein and I didn’t think that this procedure was the right route considering my veins extended HIGHER than my greater saphenous vein. I mentioned this to him and he brushed me off saying “Well, we will start here and do more if we need to.” Uhm, WTF?
It was all good because my insurance denied the procedure and wouldn’t pay for it. This means that they wanted me to pay thousands of dollars (around 5k) for a procedure that I didn’t think would work anyways so I went a different route. A friend of mine had recently seen an interventional radiologist for her veins and had a phlebectomy (vein removal) and sclerotherapy with great success. I knew that I needed more than this since my veins extended into my pelvis but I wanted to see what he would say.
My first step was an MRI with contrast to visualize the veins and see if there were any contributing factors we could see. Unfortunately I was dehydrated for the MRI and it wasn’t all that helpful (imaging center told me to be NPO but I later found out that I didn’t need to be). Next step was a venogram. A needle was placed into my groin and dye was injected while he was able to see where the dye went on XR in real time. I was awake for this procedure (conscious sedation) and I was comfortable the entire time. He looked at all my veins (ovarian veins, external and internal iliac veins) over the course of about 90 minutes before he said “I found it!” I was ecstatic. He found the issue. My internal iliac veins had severe reflux, most likely from years of pregnancy. He said he had never seen it before (just isolated internal iliac vein reflux) and his colleague hadn’t either. It made me think – how many other women suffer this way and never find the issue….
After the issue was identified, embolization with coiling was performed. This closes off the affected vessel(s). He then used a special solution to inject the vessel – which closes off the vessel. I immediately felt the solution in my pelvic region when it was injected and was hopeful that it was working. It burns like hell for a bit but goes away – don’t fret!
My leg and pelvic region were dressed with compression bandages that stayed on for two days post procedure and I was back to normal activities within a week.
I cannot even begin to tell you how much this procedure improved my veins within the pelvic region. They’re basically gone and I have no more constant pain. It honestly feels like a miracle. The medicine didn’t quite reach my leg varicosities so while my upper thigh is a bit improved, I will have a second procedure in March where we strip the veins and inject the ones lower down in my leg. We always knew going into this that it would be a two procedure solution.
This procedure (embolization with coils) of the internal iliac veins is rare. It can be hard to find an Interventional radiologist that will do it. I am incredibly grateful that I was able to find one that cared and listened to what I was saying. Bottom line – find a provider you can trust.
I will continue to keep you in the loop through the next procedure and will be sure to show you the after photos once it’s healed.
Read more here