Beginner’s Guide to Choosing a Pittsburgh Vein Center

Beginner’s Guide to Choosing a Pittsburgh Vein Center

The Only Source of Knowledge is Experience

That is a quote from Albert Einstein. Merriam Webster defines experience as the skill or knowledge that you get by doing something. The longer that a doctor has practiced, the more he has learned from his mistakes.

Do you want a doctor to treat you who is still on the early part of his learning curve?

Is your Pittsburgh vein center operated and run by a doctor who has specialized in veins all of their professional life or have they switched from another specialty?

Do not be afraid to ask your prospective doctor the following questions.

  1. How many years have you actually been treating veins?
  2. How many vein cases have you done?
  3. In what specialty did you train?
  4. How much of that training was exclusively in veins?
  5. Exactly how much experience do you have specializing in treating only veins?

Treating veins has become very popular. Ten years ago this was not the case. The laser has made it possible for doctors who are not surgeons to treat varicose veins.  Doctors from unrelated fields with no vein training have flocked into this field.

That raises serious quality and ethical issuesThere are too many doctors treating veins who are not qualified.

“Julius Caesar said, “Experience is the teacher of all things.” Do you want your vein doctor to be a vein student or the experienced expert in the field who has already learned those invaluable insights from a lifetime of experience?

Beware of Hidden Expensive Facility Costs

Happel Laser & Vein Centre is an independent practice devoted exclusively to varicose vein treatments.

That means that we have not been bought by a hospital.

When a hospital buys a vein practice, all procedures done by that office will have both a service charge and a facility component charge.

When you have your procedures done in our accredited office, there is never a facility fee.

According to Medscape, it costs you 3-4 times less than if you went to other vein centers that charge facility fees.

Examples are the St. Clair outpatient center, the UPMC outpatient centers, Allegheny Health Network outpatient and inpatient facilities, Jefferson Hospital and Washington Hospital’s cardiology practices that do veins on the side. They all charge costly facility fees in addition to the basic physician service charge.

Would you rather have a bill of $2,500 or less (with us) or $10,000 (with these expensive overpriced hospital outpatient facilities that aren’t even accredited).

The explanation is that a hospital bills the physician component separately from the facility component. A hospital’s outpatient facility component is exorbitant. Insurance companies allow no facility fee charges for independent vein centers which have not sold out to a hospital.

You’ll save thousands of dollars if you have your procedure done at the only accredited vein center in Pittsburgh, Happel Laser & Vein Center.

Beware of Free Screenings from a Pittsburgh Vein Center

Free screenings are a good thing when it comes to checking blood pressure and for basic medical problems. This is especially true for people who avoid doctors. However, when a vein center offers a free screening ultrasound, red flags should go up.

These places are usually trolling for vein patients.

Many people with unsightly veins have no symptoms at all. They just do not like the way that their legs look.  For others, their leg symptoms are due to another medical problem. Almost everyone over the age of fifty has a few visible veins.

Most people with visible veins do not require treatment from a health standpoint. At a free screening, showing people ultrasound images of their legs is a devious way to lure unsuspecting people into their office frequently for unnecessary treatments. These places charge the insurance company fraudulently. Normal doppler ultrasounds tests have been falsified and changed claiming that there is a problem when the veins are really normal.

I see this every day. People come to me for a second opinion from a vein center that advertises very heavily. They suspect that the overly aggressive recommended treatment is unnecessary. Usually, they are right.

The following is a quote from a respected vein specialist, Dr. Robert Weiss,  from Vein Directory Magazine.

… “I think we are seeing a problem with vein clinics that get patients in for a free examination and are misdiagnosing them with reflux so that an endovenous ablation can be done for profit. I’ve been seeing more frequently patients who are coming in for a second opinion who do not have reflux, and it concerns me. There is a conflict of interest when you do your own ultrasound and your own ultrasound report shows “reflux” and then you treat it. We have to come up with a way to minimize that situation. It’s akin to every patient who comes in with a little bit of chest pain and leaves with a stent.”

Which Pittsburgh Vein Center Can You Trust?

Seeking out a vein doctor you can trust is not easy.

Verify that your vein doctor has specialized training in venous disease. Make sure that the doctor you choose did not learn about veins at a three-day conference.

Make sure that your doctor has spent their entire career treating veins and did not switch from being an emergency medicine doctor or from being a cardiologist or switch from being a radiologist.

That is important.

Check to make sure that your doctor is board certified in treating vascular disease. Just saying they are board certified is not enough! Find out in which specialty they are actually board certified.

Unfortunately, advertisements for a Pittsburgh vein center often will skate around the specialty in which the vein doctor has trained. The hardest part of skating is the ice.

Nurses who have worked with vein doctors or in the operating room are another good source of information. They can tell you the inside scoop about doctors with whom they have worked.

Is your Pittsburgh Vein Center Accredited?

Make sure the Pittsburgh vein center that you chose is accredited. To be paid by insurance companies for Doppler testing, all venous centers need their ultrasound department to be credentialed.

That accreditation is only for the ultrasound testing of your veins. Don’t confuse that ultrasound credential with the whole vein center being credentialed. The Blue Cross/ Blue Shield of Massachusetts recently mandated that a vein center must be IAC accredited to get paid. Other states will follow this important prerequisite to ensure quality and safety.

The Happel Laser & Vein Center is the only IAC accredited Pittsburgh vein center.

It is the only vein center in Pittsburgh that has been inspected.

Would you consider eating at a restaurant that has never been inspected?

Of course not.

The more important question is,” Is the entire vein center accredited?”  The IAC or Intersocietal Accreditation Commission is a national organization that closely inspects veins centers. Look for their seal of approval when choosing your vein center.

The IAC is a watchdog for your safety and for the quality of your vein procedures results.  On site inspections of each vein center are mandatory.

The IAC provides a valuable service by ensuring quality and safety in vein centers throughout the country. Hospitals must be credentialed.

Vein centers also need to assure patients that they are honest, safe and provide first-rate care. We have discussed this here.


This is the bottom line:

  1. The following statement is a sad commentary but it is true. Some Pittsburgh vein center doctors are only about the profit. Unnecessary procedures and unnecessary ultrasound testing of veins are rampant. These are disturbing facts. I see patients routinely as a second opinion who suspect this. On , Russell Samson MD, a board certified vascular surgeon and clinical professor of vascular surgery at Florida State University stated, “What I’m seeing across the country is a tremendous abuse of the procedures that are being done. Laser ablation of the saphenous vein is being abused and many patients are being treated unnecessarily”. There is no oversight.
  2. Some doctors have changed medical specialties. They are getting into veins for all the wrong reasons. Here is what your vein doctor’s qualifications should look like.
  3. Check and recheck credentials, experience and board certifications. This will ensure optimal results when you have your veins treated.
  4. Be skeptical. Do your homework and research vein doctors on the internet before going to their office.

If you enjoyed this piece, share it with your friends or family members with varicose veins.

Call us if you want a trusted vein doctor who fulfills all of the qualifications that you must insist on and will treat you like a family member.

To get immediate access and rid yourself of your painful veins, contact us by clicking here or call 724-969-0600.

About The Author

Dr. John Happel

Dr. John Happel has been in practice as a surgeon since 1986 in the Pittsburgh region. He specializes in vascular surgery and has subspecialized in the treatment of varicose and spider veins since 1999. Dr. Happel is board certified in vascular surgery and recertified in vascular surgery in 2012. He was chosen in 1985 to fulfill the position for the vascular surgical fellowship at the world renowned Mayo Clinic.