7 Lies That Pittsburgh Vein Centers Like to Tell

7 Lies That Pittsburgh Vein Centers Like to Tell

Oh, What a Tangled Varicose and Spider Web We Weave …

Big or Small, Lies Are Lies – Here They Are:

1. 95% of Veins are Covered by Insurance

This is a biggest whopper of all. It falls in the bait and switch category.

First, they need to get you to come to their office. Simply, that means they tell you a fib (insurance will cover almost all of your veins).

Once the rubber hits the road, they finally have to tell you the sad truth. Most veins are not covered by insurance unless they are very large and affect and limit your activities of daily living.

Alternatively, some vein franchises illegally commit insurance fraud and will submit your veins for coverage when they know full well that your insurance company has strict rules against covering small asymptomatic cosmetic veins.

This type of vein fraud is prevalent in Pittsburgh.

It is the reason that Medicare has been meeting to stop coverage of veins altogether unless there are serious skin conditions or skin ulcers as a result of the high venous pressure in the most advanced cases.

Paying for this abuse is unsustainable.

2.  “You Need 4 or 6 Laser Ablations of Your Saphenous Veins.”


According to Dr. Russell H. Samson, an associate professor of vascular surgery at Florida State University Medical School,

“This is probably the most abused procedure in the U.S. at the moment. In my opinion … in some of these cases, it’s physical abuse of the patient.”

Ablation means that the saphenous vein is closed by heating it with laser or radiofrequency. The body absorbs it over time.

The saphenous veins are responsible for or involved in about 90% of varicose vein patients. However, removing it alone will not get rid of your varicose veins.

Additional procedures such as phlectomy (removal of the visible varicose veins through nicks in the skin) or sclerotherapy (removal of the veins by injecting them with a special medicine) are usually also required.

Ablation of four or more saphenous veins is extremely rare and almost never necessary. The saphenous veins are required for heart bypasses. Patients with only spider veins alone do not need saphenous vein ablations.

Dr. Jose Almeida, director of the annual International Vein Conferences and a Miami vascular surgeon said,

“If you go see a doctor for little spider veins on the leg and the doctor says you need ablation, you should seek a second opinion.”

When we repeat the Doppler ultrasound test (at no charge) after the patient comes for a second opinion, we often find either none or possibly only one vein that needs an ablation procedure.

These unnecessary ablations are a sign that the vein center is performing unnecessary and extremely well reimbursed and very profitable procedures for profit alone.

These days it is very common in the med spas and vein franchises in Pittsburgh to employ poorly trained physicians and unscrupulous ultrasound technicians without ethics to peddle poor varicose vein care.

Vein magazine has repeatedly discussed the pervasive issue of ethical misconduct in these types of settings.

The dilemma of solving this ethical problem is ongoing. It has no solution in this age of Ponzi schemes and the zealous goal-oriented and obsessive drive to financially get ahead in our profit motivated system.

Point being, if a vein center tells you that you need four or more saphenous vein ablations, you would be well served to get another opinion from a reputable vein specialist.

Ah, there’s the rub. How to find a reputable specialist.

Learn 12 hidden secrets to find the best varicose vein center in Pittsburgh.

Do research and read complaints on the internet to find the truth. YELP is one of the most reliable review platforms in this regard in the vein field.

Read about the ethical concerns of treating veins by concerned Pittsburgh vein specialists by searching for these doctors on the internet.

At Happel Laser & Vein, we don’t treat normal veins for profit. Most people are shocked to find out that there are vein offices in Pittsburgh that have gone to the “dark side”.

We understand that these veins may be needed in the future for the patient’s other medical problems like a heart or leg bypass. Vascular surgeons are experienced and understand the importance of saving the saphenous vein whenever possible.

Be very careful of med spas that offer ridiculously low costing spider vein treatments on Groupon. These are the places that tell you need a Doppler ultrasound for spider veins. These are also the places where people are then told that they need 4 to 6 saphenous vein ablations which are totally unnecessary.

Read this article to help you to choose the right Pittsburgh vein clinic.

How to Choose the Right Pittsburgh Varicose Vein Clinic

3.  Free “Screenings” are Pushed by Entrepreneurial Vein Centers.

Free screenings and consultations seem wonderful. The other side of the coin is that they may be illegal.

The Office of the Inspector General increased the amount that can be given away to the patient in 2016. They now allow gifts of “nominal value,” no more than $15 per item or $75 in aggregate per patient on an annual basis.

Should an audit be performed by the insurance company or the government, you may become involved.

Complimentary services over the limit are not permitted by government administered plans. Fines up to $10,000 per violation are possible.

Venous disease is not a silent killer like heart disease. You don’t need a “screening” if your veins are asymptomatic.

Vein screenings are not approved by any agency. They are a disgrace and morally dishonest.

  • They lure people to come into the office for treatment even if the majority have no symptoms at all.
  • Free screening aren’t really free.
  • Free screenings for veins drive up health care costs.

It drives up your premiums and pushes you or your employer to choose a higher deductible.

Therefore, if you consider it, free screenings are not free at all. They lead to overutilization.

Screening is appropriate and have a proven benefit to discover high blood pressure, high cholesterol, breast or cervical cancer, diabetes, or to diagnose an abdominal aortic aneurysm.

Don’t be lured into a vein office with the promise that your initial evaluation is free. Leg pain comes from many other issues besides from visible veins.

Spider veins do not grow into varicose veins. Varicose veins can be treated when and if they ever cause symptoms.

Nowhere on any approved screening list are the words, vein or venous disease.

The concept with screening is it will prevent the progression of a health problem before it becomes more serious. This is not the case with veins.

Vein screenings are inappropriate and are only marketing techniques in disguise. The word, screening is unethical when used in this fashion. These screenings are an enticement to bring you into their clutches.

Why Free Varicose Vein Screenings Are a Disgrace

4.  Spider veins are Covered by Insurance.”

(They say, “you have to know how to bill it correctly.”)

That is similar to the line that people were being fed by a fertility doctor performing venous laser treatments for profit. This occurred in Pittsburgh about fifteen years ago.

This fertility doctor went bankrupt after Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield caught him and demanded a refund of the millions of dollars of his illegally gotten gains.

His nurses were performing sham transcutaneous laser procedures for varicose veins that had no chance of resulting in any benefit. Its satisfying to know that karma works but sometimes it takes a long time.

Spider veins are just unsightly. Just like cellulite or sagging skin or unwanted fat. Spider veins pose no health risks. That’s why insurance companies won’t pay for their treatment.

5.  “Everyone Needs a Venous Doppler Who Walks into a Vein Center”

This is a big moneymaker for the disreputable vein center that practices this way. Routine Doppler ultrasounds should not be done on everyone who walks in the front door.

Ultrasound screenings are not allowed especially if they are done free of charge.

If charged to your insurance, a screening ultrasound may be denied by your insurance company leaving you holding the bill.

Doppler ultrasounds must be ordered by a physician – not a registered nurse. If a nurse orders your test and that vein center is audited, you may be required to testify.

A venous Doppler is done “in house”. That means an automatic profit of $250 whether or not the patient actually needs it.

  • If you only have spider veins, you don’t need it.
  • If you have no symptoms, you don’t need it.
  • If your legs ache and feel tired but you have no visible varicose veins, you don’t need it.
  • Only if you have symptomatic varicose veins, acute leg pain or swelling is a venous Doppler indicated.

6.  “Our Vein Doctors are All Board Certified.”

In what?

That’s what you should be asking.

People rarely do.

People assume those in practice received training. In the vein field, that is rarely the case.

To clarify this issue:

If you needed neurosurgery, would you want a board certified orthopedic doctor to treat you?

If you had a blood disorder, would you want a board-certified ophthalmologist to treat you?

If you had a painful hip or knee, would you want a board-certified gynecologist to treat you?

Then why is any old board certification acceptable if you have a vein problem?

It isn’t.

You need a trained vascular specialist like a board certified vascular surgeon to treat your veins. Does it even sound right that you would let a radiologist, cardiologist or a family doctor do procedures on your veins?

Only vascular surgeons are trained in all aspects of treating vein disease unlike all other specialists.

7.  “Convenient Locations are Provided”

But when you need your big procedure, you will go far away to their central operating office because the truth is lasers and procedure rooms are expensive.

A vein center can’t provide a full operating room with laser, radiofrequency generators, ultrasound equipment, and supplies at every location.

It’s disingenuous to list all of the satellites where people assume that they will be treated.

Eventually when it comes down to the time of treatment, you will be funneled to their operative location which will probably be inconvenient for you.

That’s the disappointing truth. Just because there are multiple satellite offices around town, you’ll eventually probably have to travel for your procedure.


Sometimes a glance “behind the curtain “is as blunt as the thudding of a meat mallet on a thick steak.

I’d like to wrap this expose up with a question for the reader.

Would you rather deal with the above approach that bends all of the rules or out and out breaks them or the alternative?

Now that you’ve learned these seven common lies that vein centers tell, are you Ready to learn more?

Call us at 724-969-0600 to discover how vein procedures should be done the right way.

Like Motel 6, we’ll leave the laser on for 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.