Pittsburgh Varicose Vein Specialist: Why You Need One

Pittsburgh Varicose Vein Specialist: Why You Need One

Shocking News about Varicose Vein Specialists

What It Takes to Be a True Varicose Vein Specialist

Varicose vein specialists are experts. A true vein specialist is an authority in the field of venous disease. However, many different kinds of doctors treat varicose veins.

Some doctors are trained to treat varicose veins but most are not.

That’s a really scary thought.

It’s incredible!

Unfortunately, that’s the truth.

Most vein specialists practicing in this country have learned how to treat varicose veins at three-day conferences.

These kind of doctors call themselves phlebologists.  Most of them have trained during their medical residency in family practice, emergency room medicine, cardiology, radiology, or dermatology.  Those types of residency programs do not train their residents in varicose vein disease.

How do they get their experience to practice on people? By just doing it! They practice and learn on you. By making mistakes, they learn. That makes you the proverbial guinea pig.

Would you consider having your varicose veins treated by a chiropractor, an ear nose and throat doctor, or a neurosurgeon?

Of course not.

You would want a specialist in varicose vein disease.

The only specialists who are trained to treat varicose veins are vascular surgeons.

Venous disease is complex. There are many variations of venous anatomy.  Vascular surgeons have the skill sets and experience from their training to properly care for all aspects of venous disease.

That means when varicose veins appear, there are many different kinds of treatments for your specific vein problem.

  • Sometimes people require laser.
  • Some people require radio frequency treatments.
  • Some people require injections of medicine into their veins to get rid of them.
  • When the varicose veins are very large, the best way to get rid of them is to remove them through needle punctures. That is called phlebectomy.
  • Many people require a combination of these treatments

Because of the complexity of the nature of varicose vein treatment, a vein specialist is mandatory to obtain optimum results.

Why Doctors Who Are Not Specialists Are Allowed to Treat Veins

Around the year 2000, lasers and radiofrequency treatments were introduced. Stripping of varicose veins was no longer required. That also meant that you did not need to go to the hospital to have your varicose veins treated.

You did not have to go to sleep have your veins treated. The newer minimally invasive varicose vein treatment can be done safely and effectively under local anesthesia. The standard of care in this country is for varicose vein treatments to be done in a doctor’s office.

This opened the flood gate for unqualified and untrained doctors to perform vein treatments. Hospitals have credentials committees. Credentials committees guarantee that only trained and qualified doctors perform procedures within their scope of practice and specialty. In other words, credentials committees prevent family doctors, emergency room doctors, and cardiologists from performing operations in the hospital.

When vein treatments moved to the office, there were no credentials committees to protect you from unqualified and untrained doctors from performing procedures that they should not be performing.

People assume that medical societies would oversee and protect the public from these types of abuses.

That is not the case.

In doctor’s offices, there is no oversight.

Varicose Vein Specialists Need Vein Center Accreditation

Vein experts across the country realized that because of the shift of vein practice from the hospital to the office that we must police our own. Without credentials committees, doctors had to create some way to certify vein offices.

There has to be some oversight for safety and quality.

The answer was to create a commission with national standards run by nationally recognized experts in the field of varicose vein disease.

This commission was created with the guidance of all of the major venous societies in the United States. It is called the Intersocietal Accreditation Commission or IAC.

This commission is the only body that assures that your varicose vein treatments are done by qualified physicians in a vein center that has passed a rigorous inspection process.

Inspections are done in hospitals, restaurants, hotels, barber shops and even nail salons.

Why in heaven’s name should vein offices (where all varicose vein treatments are performed) be excluded from health inspections?

Because the minimally invasive vein procedures are so new, inspections of vein centers have fallen through the crack. Only in Massachusetts has Blue Cross/Blue Shield demanded that vein offices be accredited.

Doppler Qualifications of Varicose Vein Specialists

Doppler ultrasound is critical in the diagnosis and during the treatment of varicose vein disease. With ultrasound, the vein specialist can see where the varicose veins are coming from and then tailor the treatment properly.

Often the treatment requires elimination of the saphenous vein which can be thought of in simple terms as the root of the problem.

  • Sometimes the great saphenous vein is the root.
  • Sometimes the small saphenous vein is the cause of the surface veins.
  • Sometimes an accessory saphenous vein is the root.
  • Sometimes a perforator vein is the cause.
  • Sometimes the varicose veins come from inside the pelvis.

When veins were stripped decades ago, there was no Doppler ultrasound technology to determine where the surface varicose veins originated.

At that time, varicose veins were stripped virtually blindly. Often the wrong veins were stripped resulting in failure. Nowadays, with ultrasound guidance, this is prevented from happening.

Therefore, it is imperative that a vein specialist be well versed in all aspects of vascular ultrasound. Ultrasound is also necessary during the treatment of the varicose veins.

Ultrasound can guide the needles used for injections of medicine into the veins. Ultrasound also must be used to guide the laser or radiofrequency treatments.

Therefore, it is mandatory that a qualified varicose vein specialist be certified in vascular ultrasound.

The highest credential of certification for vascular ultrasound technology is the registered vascular technology credential.  The highest credential of certification for vascular ultrasound interpretation is the registered physician vascular interpretation credential.

It is imperative that you do research to make sure that your varicose vein specialist is qualified and credentialed.

You must be your own varicose vein patient advocate.


Varicose vein specialists come in all different varieties.

  • Qualified and unqualified.
  • Trained and untrained.
  • Experienced and inexperienced.

Varicose vein entrepreneurs and franchises are a growing trend.

Unbelievably, there are no governmental or consumer agency to protect you from unqualified or untrained vein doctors at this time since the technology is evolving so rapidly.

People assume that doctors who call themselves vein specialists are qualified and trained.

Most people are shocked to find out that is not the case.

If you have varicose vein disease you must be your own self advocate. You must research the vein doctor’s qualifications, training and experience.

You must also do research on the vein center’s accreditation status.

That means you must check to see if the vein center has been inspected by national vein experts.

Accredited vein centers must be in compliance with comprehensive national standards.

  1. Happel Laser and Vein Center is the only accredited and inspected vein center in Pittsburgh.
  2. Dr. Happel is RVT and RPVI credentialed in vascular ultrasound – very important.
  3. Dr. Happel is the only vascular surgeon in Pittsburgh with over thirty years of specializing in varicose veins.

That means a lot.

Call us at 724-969-0600 to make an appointment. Click here to let us help you.

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.