Vein Glossary

A useful list of medical terms explained for people considering vein treatment

Vessels that carry blood from the heart (Veins carry blood back to the heart).

Extremely small blood vessel. Supplies nutrients and oxygen to the tissues.

Used during endovenous treatments, a thin long tube designed to move within the vein, and close it by delivering laser energy or radiofrequency energy.

Coagulated blood.

Duplex scan
Ultrasound system that uses colour to indicate the direction of blood flow. This is particularly helpful when looking at and evaluating both the deep and superficial venous systems. A duplex scan is essential in detecting flow in the wrong direction (Reflux)

Compression therapy
A non-surgical therapy for venous insufficiency. Often involves compression stockings with varying degrees of pressure to improve blood flow and reduce symptoms caused by venous insufficiency.

Compression stockings
Medical hosiery that gives a specific amount of support at the ankles (measured in millimetres of mercury or mmHg) to relieve the symptoms of venous reflux. Also used as therapy after vein treatments.

Deep veins
Veins that lie within the muscles of the leg. They carry 95% of the blood back to the heart (superficial veins carry less than 5%).

Deep vein thrombosis (DVT)
Thrombus or blood clot, within a deep vein.

Ultrasound device to detect the presence and movement of blood inside vessels.

Adjective meaning “inside a vein”.  May relate to Endovenous Laser Ablation (EVLA) or Endovenous Radiofrequency Ablation (VNUS Closure).

Inside a blood vessel.

Endovenous laser therapy (or EVL). The use of a laser to close a varicose vein or refluxing vein.

Foam sclerotherapy
The use of a chemical foam injected into varicose veins to cause them to close up. Performed under the guidance of ultrasound and often referred to as Ultrasound-Guided Foam Sclerotherapy. After foam is injected, it removes the lining of the vein, causing it to react by healing and withering. It disperses back into a liquid after a few minutes.

A bruise or collection of blood in the skin.

Incompetent Vessel
Vein that allows blood to fall back under the effect of gravity. Blood flow is in the wrong direction (i.e. from the heart to the feet). Incompetence is caused by unhealthy valves in the veins, often referred to as incompetent valves.

Surgical closure of a vessel with sutures or staples.

Interior of a blood vessel. The channel of the vessel.

The removal of varicose veins through a tiny cut or puncture in the skin.

Regrowth of veins after surgery. Occurs frequently after surgical stripping and is the commonest cause of recurrence after standard vein surgery. Neovascularisation is not stimulated by endovenous treatments such as VNUS Closure, Endovenous Laser or Foam Sclerotherapy.

Swelling caused by fluid. Frequently occurs in the legs and ankles of people with varicose veins.

The closing of a vessel.

Numbness or tingling often associated with damage to sensory nerves.

Perforator veins
Veins connecting the superficial veins and deep veins. The deep veins lie within the muscles and the the superficial veins lie in the fat under the skin, the subcutaneous fat. The muscles are covered by a tough fibrous layer called fascia. The perforator veins pass through the fascia, perforating it.

The study of all aspects of vein function, both normal and abnormal and the treatment of vein conditions

A specialist who is expert in all aspects of vein disease. Not to be confused with a phlebotomist – a technician or healthcare professional who takes blood samples.

Radiofrequency ablation
A minimally invasive technique which closes the great or small saphenous vein using microwave energy delivered through a fine catheter. This technique (together with laser) has replaced surgical stripping and allows a quicker recovery.  It was the first endovenous treatment for varicose veins and was invented by the VNUS company in California.

Abnormal downflow of blood in the veins of the legs caused by unhealthy valves. Reflux contributes to the development of varicose veins.

Saphenous vein
The great saphenous saphenous vein (GSV)  is a large vein running from the ankle to the groin; the small saphenous vein (SSV) runs up the back of the leg from the ankle to the knee. They are superficial veins and carry small amounts of blood to the deep veins.

The injection of unhealthy veins with a chemical medication. The lining of the vein is painlessly removed and the vein closes, withers and shrinks.

Spider veins
Also known as Thread veins. Small 1-2mm veins in the skin. Often blue or purple in colour. Often regarded as unsightly and may cause discomfort. Often due to superficial vein reflux.

Traditional part of a varicose vein operation where the great or small saphenous vein is removed by pulling it out from under the skin. Involves major surgical incisions (cuts) and has a reputation for pain, bruising and slow recovery time. Also causes re-growth of vein by stimulating neovascularisation, the main cause of vein recurrence after surgery.

Superficial veins
Veins, just beneath the skin. They are not supported in the same way as the deep veins and  they can develop areas of weakness in their walls and are more likely to become varicose than deep veins.

Thread veins
Small blood vessels near the skin’s surface, which appear as tiny, twisted, purple lines.

Formation or presence of a thrombus, or clot, within a blood vessel.

Blood clot that may block a blood vessel.

Ulcer (venous)
Lesion on skin caused by tissue loss (in the presence or caused by varicose veins). The most dreaded complication of varicose veins.

Folds in the lining of the leg veins, that open and close to prevent blood from flowing backwards.

Varicose veins
Veins with incompetent valves that are enlarged, tortuous and thickened. An estimated 30%-40% of the general population has varicose veins.

Blood vessels that take blood back to the heart

Venous insufficiency

Poor flow of blood from in the veins from the legs and feet to the heart, often characterised by symptoms such as varicose veins, swelling, aching, varicose eczema or venous leg ulcers. Caused by enlargement of the veins or damaged valves, resulting in pooling of blood. Deep vein thrombosis can also create this condition. Over time, this damages other valves in the veins and speeds progression of venous reflux.

Venous Leg Ulcer: a break in the skin caused by abnormal flow in the leg veins. 

VNUS Closure or VNUS Fast
The company name for radiofrequency ablation. The first endovenous treatment for reflux and varicose veins.