Lots of myths surround varicose veins: that only women get them; that they are caused by pregnancy; that they are painless, cosmetic matters.
Truth is, varicose veins are hereditary. Pregnancy and jobs involving heavy lifting can accelerate the condition, but not cause it. And yes, many men get varicose veins, and yes, they can be incredibly painful.
Another truth is that varicose veins don’t go away on their own. They get progressively worse, and if left untreated, they can lead to open sores, circulation problems and debilitating pain.
And while the bad news is that there are no real warning signs that varicose veins are building, the good news, says Joan Veltri, the administrator of Radiology Affiliates Imaging’s Vein Center at Lawrenceville, is that it typically takes a long time for them to create major problems. The other good news is that they are very much treatable.
RAI is well known in the Mercer County area for radiology and imaging. The business was founded more than 40 years ago and its practitioners perform neuroradiology, musculoskeletal, pediatrics and women’s imaging.
The beginnings of the Vein Center at Lawrenceville, however, go back only a few years, and start with Dr. Joel Neuman, a radiologist who has for several years practiced at Nazareth Hospital in Philadelphia.
Veltri says Neuman, who also worked with RAI, decided that the company could set up a fully functioning vein health center at its Lawrenceville Executive Center. Neuman trained the staff, including Veltri, who was the administrator of the Lawrenceville office at the time, in his procedures and about vein disease.
The Vein Center opened fully in 2011, and provides endovenous laser treatment, phlebectomy (the removal of varicose veins) and sclerotherapy, a cosmetic treatment for nonpainful varicose and spider veins.
The typical path to treatment, Veltri says, is that a patient is referred by her physician and comes in for testing. Usually, a combination of ultrasound and physical squeezing of the legs is used to see whether the blood flowing through the legs’ two main arteries (the great saphenous and small saphenous veins) is flowing in the proper direction.
If it isn’t, this is reflux. If there’s reflux, it will almost always require EVLT. Once the patient’s insurance provider green lights the procedure, Veltri says, RAI will begin its 90-minute EVLT procedure.
Veltri says that patients often are surprised by how minor the procedure comes across to them. Some patients think it will be a quick in-and-out process, though some expect treatment will require surgery.
Actually, RAI will do its initial treatment (from which, Veltri says, “they basically leave with a Band-Aid and a compression stocking”), then bring the patient back in two weeks to see if the blood is flowing in the proper direction again. Then, often, another two weeks and another visit.
Veltri says RAI starts with the deepest problem (the reflux) and works its way outward, toward the cosmetic. Total healing, she says, can take anywhere from a few weeks to half a year. And most patients are surprised to learn that they have to wear the compression stocking.
Veltri first joined RAI in 1996 as an X-ray and mammogram technician. She then moved onto the administrative side of things at RAI’s Hamilton office, then at Lawrenceville, when RAI opened its women’s suite. She ended up running that office and, once the Vein Center opened, she ran both. For a year and a half, Veltri was running the show at Lawrenceville, but as of Oct. 1, she is only running the Vein Center.
She’s much happier with just the one office to oversee, she says. It gives her a chance to concentrate on it and, to a degree, get back to what she loves doing: assisting physicians and talking with patients about what they can, should and should not be doing.
“I do love my job,” she says. “From first talks to follow-ups. Patients can call me any time.”
The RAI Vein Center is located at 3120 Princeton Pike, Lawrence. Phone: (609) 219-1000, Option 8. On the Web: 4rai.com.