Venous Insufficiency

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Venous insufficiency occurs when your veins have difficulty returning blood from the legs back to the heart. Usually caused by hereditary factors, venous insufficiency can worsen if you're overweight or sit or stand for long periods of time that weaken the vein walls. Weakened walls damage the vein valves that keep blood flowing in the right direction.

Symptoms of Venous Insufficiency

You may have venous insufficiency if you experience:

  • Ankle or leg swelling
  • Tightness in the calves
  • Tired, achy or heavy legs
  • Leg pain while walking or shortly after a walk
  • Varicose veins

Diagnosis & Treatment at UVA

At UVA, we can diagnose you by using these tests:

  • Physical exam
  • Ultrasound
  • Venogram

Compression stockings may ease your symptoms and keep blood from pooling in the legs. We offer the following treatments for venous insufficiency.


Sclerotherapy is a chemical treatment directly injected into the affected vein that causes the vein to close. The vein turns to scar tissue and fades from view. Results are immediate; you have no activity restrictions.

Vein Stripping

This procedure treats veins connected with the great saphenous vein, the largest vein close to the skin's surface along the inner thigh and calf. Your doctor makes a small incision in your groin and calf to disconnect the vein's branches and remove the affected vein. Varicose veins are also removed through several small incisions.

Ambulatory phlebectomy may be performed at the same time as vein stripping. This minimally invasive procedure removes any present varicose veins with hooks inserted through small skin incisions that don't require stitches.

Endovenous Laser Ablation Therapy (EVLT)

EVLT is a minimally invasive laser procedure that shrinks or scars the vein that runs alongside the greater saphenous vein. While under anesthesia, your surgeon makes a small incision near the knee and guides a wire catheter into the saphenous vein. The undesired vein is ablated or burned, which causes the body to reabsorb and redirect blood flow.

The procedure takes about an hour. You should wear compression garments for a week after EVLT and walk frequently to prevent blood clots. You'll receive a follow-up ultrasound at the Vein Clinic one week after treatment.


Your surgeon uses small incisions to connect an artificial vein or a vein transplanted from elsewhere in the body to healthy leg veins. This allows blood to flow around the damaged vein.

Vein Valve Repair

Your surgeon shortens the valves inside the veins to improve their function and help blood to flow properly.


Content was created using EBSCO’s Health Library. Edits to original content made by Rector and Visitors of the University of Virginia. This information is not a substitute for professional medical advice.