Angioplasty refers to the opening-up of blockages with balloons that may occur not just in arteries of the heart and legs but also in veins. In veins, this occurs particularly just above the groin crease as the major veins drain blood towards the heart. Unlike in arteries, this is not related to cholesterol deposition, but due to pressure on the veins from other structures in the pelvis or from abnormal tissue flaps (called webs) inside the vein itself.
Vein blockages lead to swelling of the leg, pigmentation and ulcers in the legs, formation of clots in the leg that in serious cases may migrate to the heart and lungs (see Deep vein thrombosis) and chronic pelvic pain and heavy periods in women (see Pelvic congestion syndrome). The treatment is to relieve the blockage with an angioplasty and in many cases to keep the vein open with a stent, which is highly specialized mesh-like tube placed within the vein by a key-hole technique. The procedures are performed with the aid of fine ultrasound probes that are placed inside the vein to guide the operation (intra-vascular ultrasound or IVUS) and ensure that the correct sized stents are accurately placed. However, these procedures may not be suitable for everyone with a swollen limb, and advanced training and expertise are needed to undertake these delicate procedures.
At the Harley Street Heart and Vascular Centre, our vascular specialists are international key opinion leaders and trainers in this field and can guide you on whether these are suitable for you.
If you have symptoms of leg swelling especially after a flight or at the end of the day, have had a DVT in the past or wish to seek an opinion on whether vein angioplasty or stenting is right for you, contact us for a consultation and assessment.