Laser Ablation Targets Venous Insufficiency

Minimally invasive procedure ends burning leg pain from vein reflux.

Before retiring two years ago, Angelia Evernden worked for 30 years at a naval air station, initially as a contract employee and later as a staff member in the environmental department.

Angie is thrilled to no longer have the burning pain in her leg.

Angie is thrilled to no longer have the burning pain in her leg.

“I started at the naval station working in a tool crib,” Angelia explains. “My job was to pass out whatever the guys needed to repair our P-3 and F-18 aircraft. I passed out everything from a rivet gun to a pin punch to every kind of chemical necessary to fix our planes. 

“The job required yearly hazmat training. I enjoyed that training and wanted to move on from the tool crib. When a supervisor asked me if I would consider moving upstairs to the environmental department, I jumped at the chance.”

“In that job, instead of placing waste such as used oil in the ground, we tried extending its use. What we couldn’t use we sent to other companies, such as forklift companies, that can use oil that isn’t as high quality as is required for our airplanes.”

Since retiring, Angelia and her husband have devoted a lot of their time to fishing, bowling, and watching baseball and softball. Unfortunately, Angelia developed a leg issue about 18 months ago that interrupted those activities and more.

“All of a sudden, I started experiencing burning in my right leg between my calf and ankle,” she describes. “The throbbing and burning woke me up at night. The burning felt like I had bumped into a hot wire or branding iron. The pain rated a 10 on a scale of one to 10.

“Walking was a problem because the more I walked the hotter my leg got. Then it would just ache. Sitting in a recliner, I couldn’t get my foot high enough to help ease the pain even if I propped it up on a pillow. I even got an adjustable bed thinking that would help raise my foot at night, but that didn’t work either.” 

After several months of steadily worsening symptoms, Angelia sought advice from a specialist, who thought the problem might be a pinched nerve from a slipped disc. The doctor ran tests but couldn’t find a reason for Angelia’s discomfort, so he referred her to another specialist. 

The second physician performed a full-body x-ray and CT scan and announced that Angelia had no disc or bone disorders and recommended medication, which Angelia refused to take.

“I take a baby aspirin, vitamin C and a multivitamin, that’s it,” Angelia discloses. “I told the doctor, I’m not willing to put those chemicals in my body. He said, I’ve done all I can. I recommend you visit Dr. Kai McGreevy.”

Venous Insufficiency

“Ms. Evernden came to us complaining of pain, which she described as hypersensitivity at the skin, as well as fullness and heaviness in her legs,” Dr. McGreevy remembers. “Upon evaluation, we noted that she also had swelling in her legs, especially her right leg.”

Dr. McGreevy’s examination revealed a reduction in sensation to light touch. That prompted him to think Angelia’s symptoms might be related to a nerve issue such as neuropathy.

Neuropathy involves damage to the peripheral nerves that run from the brain and spinal cord to the rest of the body. Numbness in the limbs is a typical symptom.

“Neuropathy is a commonly diagnosed condition that has few effective treatments, which frustrates patients and providers,” Dr. McGreevy discloses. “That inspired us to look further into overlapping causes for Ms. Evernden’s symptoms. One possible cause is a circulation disorder.”

As part of the circulatory system, leg veins pump blood upward, against gravity, toward the heart. They get help from the power of leg muscle contractions. To assist further, there is a series of one-way valves in leg veins that keep the blood from flowing in reverse, or refluxing.

“With age, heredity or long hours of sitting or standing, these valves can weaken, and blood can reflux and collect in the legs and ankles, causing symptoms,” Dr. McGreevy describes. “This condition is called venous insufficiency. Many of the symptoms of neuropathy overlap with those of venous insufficiency.”

To diagnose venous insufficiency, Dr. McGreevy performs a Doppler venous ultrasound examination that allows him to see the flow of blood from the legs toward the heart. In Angelia’s case, the simple, noninvasive exam revealed significant venous insufficiency in both legs.

Laser Energy

To correct the problem, Dr. McGreevy began with a conservative approach, recommending that Angelia wear compression stockings for a few weeks to help eliminate the swelling and heaviness in her legs. Dr. McGreevy also performed a nerve block to try to ease her leg pain. During a nerve block, a local anesthetic is injected into a targeted nerve to lessen pain or determine the cause.

When Angelia’s symptoms persisted, Dr. McGreevy knew a new course of action was necessary. 

“We proceeded with a treatment that addressed Ms. Evernden’s vein problem directly, a minimally invasive procedure called endovenous laser ablation, or EVLA.”

EVLA involves the introduction of a sterile laser fiber into the problematic vein via a tiny puncture in the leg. During EVLA, laser energy is delivered through this fiber, gently collapsing and sealing the vein. Blood flow from the sealed vein then reroutes through other, healthy veins in the leg, which reduces the condition’s impact on the patient.

“EVLA relieves the symptoms, including pain, swelling, fatigue and heaviness,” Dr. McGreevy states. “It also improves the aesthetics of the legs, reducing any discoloration and thickness of the skin, as well as the appearance of varicose and spider veins.

“Without treatment, the downstream effects of venous insufficiency can become severe. These effects include infection, a breakdown of the skin and ulceration.” 

Dr. McGreevy explains that Angelia responded positively to the treatment.

“Within a week, she reported less heaviness in her legs, decreased swelling and a reduction in pain, which was most important to her,” the doctor reveals. “We followed her for four months, and her results were sustainable. She continued to report 80 to 90 percent improvement.”

“I Have Zero Pain”

Dr. McGreevy performed the EVLA procedure on Angelia’s legs in June of last year. 

“Two weeks after my first procedure I went back to Dr. McGreevy and said, I’ve never felt so good in all my life,” Angelia enthuses. “It’s now been about nine months since I received the treatment, and I feel wonderful. I have zero pain. There’s no burning in my leg at all. It’s wonderful being able to walk again and not have pain.”

Angelia spent nearly eight months visiting other specialists before being referred to Dr. McGreevy. She has high regard for the pain management specialist that finally brought her relief from the burning pain in her leg.

“Dr. McGreevy is very friendly and knowledgeable,” Angelia describes. “He explained everything before he did anything. It wasn’t, This is what you need, and that was it. It was, This is what I think we should try. This is what I want to test you for. 

“It’s amazing how much studying he’s doing on nerve damage, back problems, Alzheimer’s disease and other disorders to help his patients. I definitely recommend Dr. McGreevy. In fact, I sent my daughter to him.”

© FHCN article by Patti DiPanfilo. Photo by Jordan Pysz. mkb
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