Super - glue treatment for varicose veins

To treat chronic venous insufficiency, Dr Chong simply glues the vein shut, instead of closing it with heat, which risks damaging surrounding tissue.
To treat chronic venous insufficiency, Dr Chong simply glues the vein shut, instead of closing it with heat, which risks damaging surrounding tissue.ST PHOTO: FELINE LIM

Over the course of four months, what started off as a tiny ulcer on Ms Maria Herminia Laguras' leg grew into a large, weeping sore.

It bled constantly and itched so much that it would keep her up at night, the 45-year-old domestic helper recalled.

Ms Laguras was diagnosed as having chronic venous insufficiency - a problem where blood in the leg veins flows in the wrong direction. This causes problems such as ulcers and varicose veins.

Her doctor at Singapore General Hospital (SGH), vascular surgery department head Chong Tze Tec, suggested a new technique involving special medical superglue to treat the condition.

Rather than closing the vein with heat, which runs the risk of damaging surrounding tissue, Dr Chong simply glues the vein shut.

This stops blood from flowing through the vein and prevents problems from recurring.

Around half the people with varicose veins - where veins bulge up under the skin like ropes - have the underlying problem of chronic venous insufficiency, said Dr Chong.

Few seek treatment because they think it is just part of ageing.

"People tend to think the problem is just cosmetic, but it's not - it can be a real medical issue."

Apart from varicose veins, those with the condition often complain that their legs are swollen or heavy, especially at the end of a long day. In severe cases, they may also develop leg ulcers.

Although the problem can be managed with compression stockings to improve blood flow, this is not a permanent solution.

Said Dr Chong: "These stockings tend to be hot, itchy and tight. They only alleviate symptoms but don't treat the problem."

The new treatment involves sliding a long, flexible tube up the vein to slowly glue it shut.

It is typically done under local anaesthesia, and most patients can walk on the same day.

It was first introduced in the United States two years ago, and was approved for local use last year. Since then, more than 100 patients at SGH have undergone the procedure, which costs about $2,000.

Ms Laguras recalled being very nervous when she first entered the operating theatre, but described the actual pain as being like "an ant bite". After a 10-minute rest, she was able to get up and walk out of the room. That night, she had her first good sleep in months. Best of all, the oozing leg ulcer has healed.

"I suffered for four months," Ms Laguras said.

"Now, it's closed and it's dry."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 14, 2017, with the headline 'Super - glue treatment for varicose veins'. Print Edition | Subscribe