Varicose vein treatment has dropped22nd April 2010
Varicose vein surgery in England has fallen significantly over the last 10 years.
An audit in the Annals of the Royal College of Surgeons of England says the number of patients being referred by GPs for treatment of varicose veins has dropped with a key factor being primary care trusts rationing surgery to cut costs by setting stringent criteria for referral.
The RCS believes the move is a false economy as there is evidence that such treatment is cost-effective, can dramatically improve quality of life and prevent future complications.
The audit reveals a 34% drop in the number of patients presenting to secondary care for varicose vein procedures.
And figures for 2007/08 show that in that year 49% fewer patients underwent surgery for varicose veins than in 1998.
Professor Gerard Stansby, a consultant vascular surgeon at the Freeman Hospital in Newcastle, said PCTs were putting limits on who could be referred, with evidence of regional variation.
He added: “They are becoming more stringent in the criteria they set and we don’t feel that is very evidence based. Most of the guidelines that people are putting out say referral should be restricted to those with leg ulceration or major morbidity. Our view is that treatment is cost-effective.”
With varicose veins it is often impossible to tell which patients will develop severe symptoms and complications.
The Department of Health has asked the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence to look at management of varicose veins with estimates suggesting that 25% of women and 15% of men have the condition.
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