Dealing with Varicose Veins: When a Nurse Becomes a Patient

More than 40 million Americans have varicose veins, and these individuals face a daily struggle with the swollen veins that can cause throbbing leg pain, severe swelling, and heavy, tired legs.

Half of all Americans over 50, and two-thirds of women over 60, have the condition. And people whose jobs require them to stand for long periods of time — such as nurses, teachers, waitresses — all have a higher-than-average risk of developing a venous disease. In fact, one nurse at St.Clair Hospital recently faced  this daily struggle.

Amy Aiello, R.N., BSN, at St. Clair Hospital’s Cardiovascular Surgery Unit found herself unusually exhausted after work. “My legs were so tired and my feet throbbed with pain. I was unable to do anything after work. I love to garden, cook and have dinner guests at my home in Bridgeville, but I could no longer do these things. I knew I had varicose veins but I did not associate this pain and fatigue with them. I thought it was due to getting older and working long hours. When I learned about Dr. Andrus and the new Vein Care Center, I thought that I should go there and get checked out. I’m glad that I did. Dr. Andrus and the staff took great care of me and gave me back my vitality and quality of life.”

Care at the Vein Care Center begins with a thorough diagnostic assessment, including ultrasound studies and an examination by Vein Care Center Medical Director Jason M. Andrus, M.D.

The results from Amy’s diagnostic assessment were quite surprising. Dr. Andrus found five varicose veins in Amy’s legs and recommended a series of vein ablations. Vein ablation, Andrus explains, is a heat-directed process that uses radio frequency waves to close off and eliminate blood vessels: “We make a tiny cut near the varicose vein and insert a small catheter into the vein. The tip of the catheter heats up, but the patient does not feel that. The heat shuts the vein down, it scleroses, or hardens, and the body absorbs the dead vessel.”

Vein ablation is painless, takes about 30 minutes and does not require sedation or anesthesia. Patients remain at the Center for about two hours from start to finish and are able to walk immediately afterward.

“I’ve had three vein ablations so far, with one more to go, and already the pain and fatigue in my legs is gone. I’m back at work and I can do things after work again. My life has improved immensely,” Amy says.

Dr. Andrus specializes in interventional radiology, radiology, and vein ablation. He earned his medical degree at Chicago Medical School. Dr. Andrus completed a radiology residency and an interventional radiology fellowship at Allegheny General Hospital, Pittsburgh. He is board-certified by the American Board of Radiology. He practices with South Hills Radiology Associates.

This story is an edited version of a full report published in our Winter 2016 edition of HouseCall. If you want to read the full write-up – which includes more information about varicose veins – you can visit the St.Clair website and download a copy of our Winter 2016 HouseCall here.