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What Is Sclerotherapy?
Sclerotherapy is a procedure used to treat blood vessels or blood vessel malformations (vascular malformations) and also those of the lymphatic system. A medicine is injected into the vessels, which makes them shrink. It is used for children and young adults with vascular or lymphatic malformations. In adults, sclerotherapy is often used to treat varicose veins and hemorrhoids.
Sclerotherapy has been used in the treatment of varicose veins for over 150 years. Like varicose vein surgery, sclerotherapy techniques have evolved during that time. Modern techniques including ultrasonographic guidance and foam sclerotherapy are the latest developments in this evolution.
The first reported attempt at sclerotherapy was by D Zollikofer in Switzerland, 1682 who injected an acid into a vein to induce thrombus formation. Both Debout and Cassaignaic reported success in treating varicose veins by injecting perchlorate of iron in 1853. Desgranges in 1854 cured 16 cases of varicose veins by injecting iodine and tannin into the veins. This was approximately 12 years after the probable advent of great saphenous vein stripping in 1844 by Madelung.
However, due to high rates of side-effects with the drugs used at the time, sclerotherapy had been practically abandoned by 1894. With the improvements in surgical techniques and anesthetics over that time, stripping became the treatment of choice.
George Fegan in the 1960s reported treating over 13,000 patients with sclerotherapy, significantly advancing the technique by focussing on fibrosis of the vein rather than thrombosis, concentrating on controlling significant points of reflux, and emphasizing the importance of compression of the treated leg. The procedure became medically accepted in mainland Europe during that time. However it was poorly understood or accepted in England or the United States, a situation that continues to this day amongst some sections of the medical community.
The next major development in the evolution of sclerotherapy was the advent of duplex ultrasonography in the 1980s and its incorporation into the practice of sclerotherapy later that decade. Knight was an early advocate of this new procedure and presented it at several conferences in Europe and the United States.
The work of Cabrera and Monfreaux in utilizing foam sclerotherapy along with Tessari's "3-way tap method" of foam production further revolutionized the treatment of larger varicose veins with sclerotherapy.
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