Varicose Vein Treatments in Pittsburgh: The Six Hidden Truths

Varicose Vein Treatments in Pittsburgh: The Six Hidden Truths

Discover the Truth about Varicose Vein Treatments in Pittsburgh

Hidden Truth #1: Most Vein Centers in Pittsburgh Have Never Been Inspected 

They inspect restaurants, hospitals, cars, houses, and even nail salons; don’t they?It is essential that you choose a vein center that has passed a thorough inspection.The sad fact is that most of the vein centers in Pittsburgh have never been inspected or accredited.Doesn’t that sound absolutely crazy?The reason is that only lately have doctors started doing varicose vein treatments in their offices instead of in hospitals.National vein societies recognized that there is a big problem when no one oversees vein offices where all of the varicose vein procedures are now done.Let’s talk about raising the bar at vein doctor’s offices to at least a bare minimum of requirements to certify vein center safety and quality. The Intersocietal Accreditation Commission solved the problem by starting vein centers inspections and accreditation in 2014.Once a vein center passes inspection, you can be assured that everything in that center has been thoroughly examined.
  • The doctor’s credentials qualifications and experience have been carefully scrutinized.
  • The safety equipment and autoclaves were examined.
  • The staff has been carefully evaluated.
  • Continuing medical education is up-to-date.
  • Emergency equipment and medications are all in order
Would you ever plan on going to a vein center where a national inspector has never set foot now that you know this hidden truth?No way!Incidentally, Blue Cross of Massachusetts requires that all vein centers in their state must be inspected and accredited to receive reimbursement. That’s a step in the right direction.Choose a vein center that has the appropriate credentials to operate safely and follows at least minimum national standards.

Hidden Truth #2: You Can Be Permanently Injured by Unqualified Vein Doctors

Vein treatments have risks.Complications can occur. That often doesn’t cross the minds of too many people.So, what do people really think about when choosing a vein center?Most people just pick the closest vein center.For most people, it’s convenience over quality.Unfortunately, most people usually don’t research or ask about a vein doctor’s qualifications, experience or credentials at all!That’s unwise but is another hidden secret that is unbelievably true.People assume that all vein doctors are the same.It is critical that you find the best vein doctor in your area.The doctor makes or breaks your experience and your results. You probably didn’t know that your varicose veins will return sooner if inadequately treated.Your vein specialist must have advanced training and must have completed a fellowship training in venous disease. Not family practice, emergency medicine or cardiology. Not just any residency program.The medical specialty that truly specializes in the circulation is vascular surgery. Proper credentials, qualifications, and being an authority in the specialty of venous disease are qualities that aren’t easy to find in an individual.Look for a fellowship trained vascular surgeon – preferably from a respected medical institution – who specializes in venous disease.Crucial to the treatment of venous disease is the venous disease specialist’s ability to perform and interpret venous ultrasound or Doppler.If the doctor can’t pick up an ultrasound probe themselves and tell you in a few minutes what procedure you need, there is a problem.The doctor also must be able to use the Doppler during your treatments. Therefore, being credentialed and experienced in being able to perform ultrasound (the RVT credential) and interpreting venous ultrasound (the RPVI credential) are important to the success of your varicose vein treatment.During your initial consultation, you can find out if the doctor takes their time with you and does not rush.Make sure your first appointment or consultation is with the doctor, not some kind of assistant.The doctor must have hospital privileges. Not having hospital privileges often implies a lack of credentials that are required by hospital credentials committees to be admitted on staff.Many self-proclaimed vein doctors do not have any hospital privileges. That is another hidden truth.Also look for online recommendations about your vein doctor. Web sites like Yelp, Healthgrades, Vitals and LinkedIn can be helpful.

Hidden Truth #3: Avoid Vein Centers That Advertise

The most successful businesses as well as the best vein centers don’t need to advertise.Word-of-mouth brings people in after established patients recommend them.Expensive advertising on TV, on the radio or in magazines is a red flag.Ask yourself – why do these vein offices need to advertise?
  • Are they just starting out?
  • Do they get bad results which results in not getting referrals?
  • Is there something wrong so that word-of-mouth has turned away potential patients?
  • Are they just plain mean spirited and tired of dealing with the public?
  • Are they a franchise motivated by profit and churning out more volume because there are a lot of administrative mouths to feed?
Always ask about your total cost at places that advertise before you have anything done. (Insurance rarely covers everything)Finding out that you owe more shekels than you can afford after insurance pays their part is not a pleasant surprise.

Hidden Truth #4: There is a Big Problem with the Ethics of Vein Care

Most people don’t know that several vein doctors in Pittsburgh and across the country are simply dishonest.It’s sad to say but the field of treating veins and venous disease has fallen into disrepute.Here are the stark details.Vein doctors are actually warning other vein doctors not to abuse patients – (see this article on what vein doctors should not do).Another recent roundtable discussion in Vein magazine was hosted by Dr. Thomas O’Donnell MD. It focused on the declining ethics of varicose vein care in this country.To learn more, read the Vein magazine article entitled Absurd Vein Care: Can We Fix It?Discussing this, Dr. Jose Almeida MD, Dr. Jennifer Heller MD, Dr. Mitchel Goldman MD, Dr. Marc Isaacs MD and others describe the current troubling trend in the ethics of treating varicose veins.Please read the following details about the alarming state of the vein profession from a respected vascular surgeon vein authority, Dr. Edward Mackay to learn the truth. Here are the gritty details about vein treatments in this country.The field of treating varicose veins has become extremely competitive.
That’s because doctors enjoy the perks of not having to work at a hospital. There are few emergencies which makes for a better lifestyle. There are few life and death decisions and less worry.This lifestyle has attracted all kinds of doctors with questionable motives for treating venous disease. Profit is one of them. Therefore, choosing an ethical varicose vein center shouldn’t be taken lightly.

Hidden Truth #5: Most Vein Doctors in Pittsburgh Don’t Have the Three A’s

During medical training, physicians were told if they possessed the 3 As, success would follow.The three following requirements are indispensable when choosing a vein specialist in Pittsburgh.
  1. Ability
  2. Affability
  3. Availability
Let’s focus on the third quality.Your doctor must be available 24/7.Your vein doctor should always be a just phone call away.That is extremely rare these days.In case you have a problem – will you even get to speak to the doctor?If so, is it your doctor? If not, are they even familiar with your case or just covering?Most doctors insulate themselves with ancillary staff and messaging services.If you really need a doctor quickly, you will probably be told to go to the emergency room. That unnecessary step and cost can be avoided by just speaking to the vein specialist who is directly involved in your care.Ask if your vein specialist will always be directly available to you if you need them for any problems or emergency situations.Sending you to the emergency room is not acceptable.

Hidden Truth #6: Med Spas Treating Veins and Franchised Vein Centers Are a Joke

Going to a med spa to have your varicose veins treated in my opinion is not a good idea.Franchised vein care is also usually not your best option.Here’s why.Franchised medicine is becoming commonplace. People have accepted it – just like pumping your own gas.Replacing doctors with support staff is an every-day event at most medical facilities.The Pennsylvania Medical Society just sent an alert to Pennsylvania physicians to oppose nurse practitioners from practicing medicine independently without a medical license.In addition, the pressure for profit at franchised medical facilities is increasing.The mission gets blurred when profit is a key motivation to treat patients.Vein franchises use a team approach where the doctor’s involvement is often marginalized to save money.Doctors only work there part time. Doctors cost these kinds of places more money than the other less qualified professionals.You also have to ask yourself, do they respect you?You should always feel like you were treated with respect after your initial consultation.Did you even meet or speak with a doctor on your initial visit? You must feel comfortable with the way the vein center treats you.Did they treat you like an individual or a case?If it’s the latter, that’s a huge warning sign.You will get the sense for this on the day of your consultation.If you’re not comfortable, don’t hesitate to get a second opinion.Don’t settle for being passed from one provider to another during your treatment course.That’s what happens at franchises.


The most important hidden truths to remember when choosing the best vein center in Pittsburgh are:
  • Make sure the vein center has been inspected just like a hospital.
  • Avoid spas and franchises for your vein treatments.
  • Avoid vein offices (especially franchises) that advertise.
  • Look for the most experienced, ethical, and qualified vein doctor who is always easily available in Pittsburgh – not just the closest vein center.
  • Find someone who specializes in the treatment of veins alone and not the “skin and its contents”.
  • Look for a fellowship trained and board certified vascular surgeon for the best results.
At the risk of sounding like Captain Obvious, research your vein doctor at least as much as you would research a new car.It’s easy and so worth it!  

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.