On 12 March 1999, the first endovenous or “keyhole” operation for varicose veins was performed in the UK.
Mark Whiteley and Judy Holdstock treated a patient using a device called VNUS Closure. This device is not available today as it has been superseded by other techniques. However this first operation performed 17 years ago started the whole revolution of treating varicose veins as an outpatient procedure.
When they performed the first endovenous procedure, Mark Whiteley and Judy Holdstock used general anaesthetic. Instead of cutting in at the groin, tying the vein and stripping it away (which had been the traditional way of treating varicose veins) the vein was destroyed by heating it. Using the expert ultrasound of Judy Holdstock, Mark Whiteley was able to put a needle directly into the vein to be treated below the knee, pass the VNUS Closure catheter up to the groin, and then wrap the leg in a rubber bandage compressing the vein onto the device.
Radiofrequency was then used to heat the vein at the end of the catheter. The catheter was withdrawn slowly, over about 40 minutes, to treat every millimetre of the vein.
In 1999 this was utterly revolutionary. There were no stitches needed at all, the usual 14 days needed to recover from stripping disappeared and patients went back to work the following day, and the end cosmetic result was fantastic as the tiny scars were too small to be seen once they had healed.
These results and advantages were widely publicised and endovenous surgery really started to spread through the UK and the rest of the world through the end of the 1990s and early 2000’s.
By the time Mark Whiteley was in the Telegraph in 2000, the medical community was starting to take notice of this new way of treating veins.
By then Mark and Judy had established The Whiteley Clinic and had developed the research ethos that has kept The Whiteley Clinic at the forefront of vein surgery and developments of endovenous techniques ever since.
Although it was clear that the pain was considerably less and patients return to work considerably faster, and the cosmetic result is far better, it wasn’t until about five years later that it also became clear that the process of heating the vein also reduces the risk of the veins growing back. One of the problems with varicose veins is that they have always come back after treatment, a process called “recurrent varicose veins”.
The Whiteley Clinic research team won a research prize in 2005 which was then published in 2007 showing that when veins are stripped away, the bruising causes the veins to grow back again. When they grow back, they never have valves in them and so they are always varicose veins. Hence the very process of stripping the veins away caused recurrence in the majority of cases.
We package all of this research knowledge into The Whiteley Protocol® ensuring that all of our doctors, vascular technologists and nurses have a protocol to work to, to ensure that all the patients coming to the The Whiteley Clinic in the very best treatment that is currently available and possible.
It is amazing to see how vein surgery has changed in the 17 years since our first case of VNUS Closure!
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