Which is the Most Experienced Varicose Vein Treatment Center in Pittsburgh?

Which is the Most Experienced Varicose Vein Treatment Center in Pittsburgh?

The History of Varicose Vein Treatment Centers in Pittsburgh

Before lasers revolutionized the world of varicose vein care, only surgeons could treat varicose veins. That was done by  stripping varicose veins. Just saying the words, stripping varicose veins makes most people shudder.

At that time in Pittsburgh, before lasers there were only four surgeons interested in treating varicose veins. The four surgeons exclusively treating varicose veins were Dr.Stanley Hirsch, Dr. William Katz who founded the circulatory center in 1979, Dr. J. L. Buchanan, who operated out of Mercy Hospital and Dr. John Happel who began practicing vascular surgery in Pittsburgh in 1986.

Dr.Hirsch merged his practice with UPMC and has retired. Two chiefs of vascular surgery at UPMC offered Dr. Happel a vascular surgery position but he declined joining their group. He remains in private solo practice. Dr Katz sold the Circulatory Centers to Dr. Louis Certo who franchised the practice into 29 locations in six states. Dr. Buchanan passed away. Dr. Happel has maintained his solo vein practice since 1986 and has two offices in McMurray, PA and Wheeling, West Virginia.

Lasers caused a huge paradigm shift in treating varicose veins.

With the advent of the laser to treat varicose veins around the turn of the century, varicose vein care was no longer restricted to surgeons. This opened a floodgate of all different kinds of doctors claiming to be specialists in varicose vein treatments. Many inexperienced doctors who had no training vascular disease at all suddenly decided to start treating veins.

This continues to this day. Emergency room doctors, family practitioners, radiologists, and even heart doctors have started treating people with varicose veins. Many of these doctors learned their vein techniques at three day conferences and from paying to watch other vein doctors for a couple of days.

This raises a question of quality and experience in treating venous disease. One of the busiest vein practices in Pittsburgh started out merely by treating spider veins. Advertising heavily and a strong entrepreneurial spirit has helped them to thrive.

The Difference Between Solo Veins Practices and Vein Franchises

The doctor who will treat you should always do your initial consultation.

Vein offices that have a medical assistant, nurse, technologist, or physician assistant doing your initial consultation should raise red flags. At Happel Laser and Varicose Vein Center, I alone will do your initial consultation and treatments.

I am a board certified vascular surgeon. You will have my complete care during the entire process from beginning to end. You will not see that in the current tag team vein franchise approach.

I often hear stories from patients seeking a second opinion. They tell me they did not meet their doctor at other vein centers until the day of their laser procedure.

That is a disgrace.

After their consultation, treatment decisions were made by ancillary medical personnel.

Most people feel uncomfortable with this approach. Other patients come to me after these procedures have already been unsuccessful.

All of these places have to advertise heavily on TV to create new patient flow. Many people come to me for a second opinion from a vein center which advertises heavily on television. These people question overly aggressive and unnecessary laser procedures recommended by nurses at vein franchises.

Do Not Settle for a Hasty Consultation

The doctor who performs your treatment should discuss the risks, the downside and the upside of doing varicose vein treatments. The doctor, not their lackeys, should discuss all of this with you before anything is done.

You should never feel pressured. If the treatment seems overly aggressive, get a second opinion. I recently spoke to a disappointed patient who regretted having an unnecessary procedure at another vein center. She said that she trusted that doctor who advertised. Unfortunately, years later she realized her mistake.

As a solo practitioner, I see myself as one of the last practioners of traditional medicine and surgery. The approach that I was trained under was once called the doctor/patient relationship. This has degraded into the modern tag team approach. It is now called a provider/client relationship. I find this terminology and arrangement offensive. It is wrong. This new approach provides inferior care.

Before you schedule any procedure, meet the surgeon. That seems like a simple request. Many people who go to a vein franchise do not ask to do this! Make sure you’re on the same page. The best and most reputable  vascular surgeons will give you their honest opinion whether or not they can achieve what you want.

When people come to see me for a second opinion, I first ask them why they came to see me. Usually they say the just didn’t “feel comfortable” at the other place. Attentive listening and confidence by a caring, supportive and compassionate physician is the approach that I prefer and practice.

Advantages of the Traditional Approach of Varicose Vein Treatments

The most important advantage is quality time with a physician who will really listen to you and actually do your treatments from the beginning to the end.

You don’t want a nurse or physician’s assistant to do your treatments, do you?

Franchises offer a different doctor or assistant or nurse trying to catch up with your treatment plan every time you go to the office. Varicose vein treatments often require more than one visit depending on the severity of your problem.

Hospital groups or new vein clinics that are just starting out offering vein treatment (while practicing mainly cardiology or radiology) may only offer you radio frequency treatment or laser. Many will then refer you out for further treatment like phlebectomy or injections.  This is not just more inconvenient for you. It can be more expensive when dealing with multiple providers and different doctors to receive your final complete care.

Why Not Just Do a Little Research First?

Reputable established and experienced varicose vein centers do not need to advertise on TV or in magazines.

Would you choose your family doctor, heart surgeon or neurosurgeon this way? Ask yourself why these “vein physicians” from all different backgrounds need to advertise in the mass media.

Check whether your surgeon is certified by one of the boards of the American Board of Medical Specialties. The American College of Venous and Lymphatic Medicine is a pseudo-board. A lot of these family practice and emergency room doctors use this pseudo qualification to appear to be vein specialists to the unsuspecting public.  They do not require physicians to complete vein residency training in a specialty and to pass rigorous oral and written exams.  Is their specialty vein related or something else?

Do not just be satisfied that they are board certified in “something”.

In addition, if you also chose this particular varicose vein office mainly because it was close to where you live you may regret it. Take a little time and do some basic research into real vascular qualifications, vascular training, reputation, and experience because not all varicose vein doctors are the same.


At Happel Laser and Vein Center, I practice medicine using the traditional one on one personalized approach.

Medicine practiced in varicose vein centers is an art. I believe that is difficult or impossible to achieve that in a franchised entrepreneurial atmosphere.

Instead of responding to advertisements on television or choosing your vein doctor because he is close to home, do a little research on the internet first.

Check and recheck the varicose vein doctor’s credentials. Check the credentials of the vein center. Is it IAC vein center accredited? (not just IAC Doppler venous accredited)

How long have they actually been treating varicose veins or do they really do cardiology or radiology and treat veins on the side?

Don’t you want a doctor who treats varicose veins exclusively?

Call us at 724-969-0600 to learn more about how our vein practice is different from other varicose vein treatment centers in Pittsburgh.

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.