From Press Reports
When Mark Nichols of Belmont had weight loss surgery in 2010, all of his weight-related health problems resolved, except one.
“When I was really heavy, my legs bothered me a lot,” said Nichols, 44. “I was carrying around a lot of extra weight. I was having severe leg pain and getting very little sleep at night.” The load lightened tremendously after losing 87 pounds, but his legs had already suffered the damage.
Healthy leg veins contain valves that open and close to assist the return of blood back to the heart. Venous reflux disease develops when these valves become diseased or damaged. In addition to aching and heaviness in the legs, symptoms include bulging veins, swelling, skin color and texture changes and even ulcers at the ankle.
After an ultrasound study to look at blood flow revealed severe varicose veins on both legs, Robert McAuley, M.D., of Surgery Clinic of Tupelo recommended Nichols wear knee-high support stockings every day.
“Varicose veins are swollen, twisted and sometimes painful veins that have filled with an abnormal collection of blood,” Dr. McAuley explained. “Most people assume they are a normal part of aging and are bothered simply by the way they look, but varicose veins can progress to chronic venous insufficiency, which is more serious.”
Road to Relief
After seeing little improvement, Dr. McAuley scheduled Nichols for outpatient surgery in January 2012 at North Mississippi Medical Center. Because Nichols’ left leg was worse than his right, Dr. McAuley tackled it first with a procedure called saphenous vein stripping and ligation, during which the damaged vein is removed (stripped) through incisions in the leg and then tied off (ligated). At the same time, Dr. McAuley also removed several superficial veins, those located close to the surface of the skin, with a process called phlebectomy that utilizes small incisions in the skin.
Months later when it came time to fix the varicose veins in his right leg, Nichols had another option-a procedure called thermal ablation at NMMC’s new Vein Center. Using ultrasound, Dr. McAuley positioned a cathether into the diseased vein through a small puncture in the skin. Powered by radiofrequency energy, the tiny catheter delivers heat to the vein wall, which collapses the vein. Once the diseased vein is closed, blood is rerouted to other healthy veins.
“I was awake the whole time and able to watch the procedure being done,” Nichols said. “It was very impressive.”
Because there was no anesthesia and only two small incisions with the thermal ablation, his recovery was much easier than before. “I was back at work in just over a week,” Nichols said. A few weeks after that, he was back to swimming, jogging and working out most every day at the Wellness Center.
“Dr. McAuley explained both procedures very well to me beforehand, and he tried to eliminate scarring,” he said. “I know, but nobody else can tell that anything has been done to either leg.”
Best of all, Nichols said, leg pain no longer limits activity and keeps him up at night. “My legs look and feel younger than my age,” he said. “I would have never thought that could happen.”
Turn to the Experts
The NMMC Vein Center, which opened in October, treats varicose veins, spider veins, venous ulceration and inflammation, and other issues affecting veins of the leg. Located at 607 Garfield St. across from NMMC, the Vein Center is staffed by general surgeons Robert McAuley, M.D.; Buddy Williamson, M.D.; Raymond Orgler, M.D.; and Newt Harrison, M.D. For more information, call the NMMC Vein Center at 662-377-8921 or 1-855-346-VEIN (8346), or visit www.nmhs.net/vein_center.php