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Ann R Coll Surg Engl. 1997 Mar;79(2):105-10.

Complications of varicose vein surgery.

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Department of Surgery, Princess Royal Hospital, Haywards Heath, W Sussex.


A retrospective review was carried out of patients who had undergone surgery for varicose veins over an 8 year period between 1985 and 1993. We wished to determine the incidence of various complications so that the risks of surgery could be openly discussed with patients. A total of 973 limbs were operated upon in 599 patients (413 F, 186 M; mean age 49 years). All patients were under the care of a single consultant vascular surgeon who was present at 92% of operations and all patients were reviewed postoperatively. There was no perioperative mortality. Wound complications (haematoma, cellulitis or abscess) occurred in 2.8% of limbs and minor neurological disturbance (numbness or tingling) in 6.6%. Leakage of lymph from the groin occurred in five patients, all of whom had undergone exploration for groin recurrence. Major complications included three cases of deep venous thrombosis (0.5%), one pulmonary embolus, and one foot-drop. There was one major vascular injury, the common femoral vein being damaged in a patient having a third operation on the groin for persistent recurrence. Vein patch repair was performed and patency was maintained. The overall incidence of major complications was 0.8%. Minor complications occurred in 17% of patients. It is unlikely that major complications can be eliminated. In this retrospective review there will be some under-reporting, but we are confident that this is restricted to minor complications.

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