Eight Secrets Vein Centers in Pittsburgh Don’t Want You to Know

Eight Secrets Vein Centers in Pittsburgh Don’t Want You to Know

Discover the Truth About Pittsburgh Vein Centers and Its Vein Doctors

Secret #1: Unnecessary Testing and Procedures are Being Performed Without You Even Suspecting at Some Vein Centers in Pittsburgh.

Not everyone who walks into a vein center needs an ultrasound.

Only people who have varicose veins (big bulging veins that cause symptoms) need an ultrasound.


If you present to a Pittsburgh vein center with only spider veins, you don’t need a complete Doppler ultrasound of both legs. The charge for that study is $250.

If you are a rare patient who has underlying saphenous vein insufficiency with spider veins, a quick screening ultrasound by the consulting physician can be done in less than five minutes.

That fee should be included in the consultation fee.

However, most vein centers in Pittsburgh will recommend the more expensive and unnecessary $250 complete Doppler exam.

Unnecessary testing like this adds to total health care costs. That increases your insurance premiums and deductibles.

Ultrasound results need to be checked and verified because many are easily falsified.

Demand to watch the Doppler test.

Watch and see for yourself the blood changes direction to verify its veracity. Ask for an explanation when they are squeezing your leg to look for blood flow in your veins. The color of the veins should change from blue after being squeezed while you are standing. It should change to red when the examiner’s hand is released.

That is reflux.

That is abnormal.

You can see whether the test is really normal or abnormal while it is being performed. Be skeptical because Doppler tests are being falsified.

Over treatment of asymptomatic varicose veins is not recommended nor is it covered by insurance.

Some vein centers will falsify symptoms or clinical sizes of veins or swelling of legs to fraudulently bill their vein services to insurance companies. This is illegal and unethical.

Over treatment of asymptomatic varicose veins is often recommended even though it’s not a covered service.

Preventative vein treatment of asymptomatic varicose veins is not accepted medical practice.

This concept of not treating asymptomatic varicose veins is stressed in this article: van den Boezem PB, Klem TM, le Cocq d’Armandville E, Wittens CH. The management of superficial venous incompetence. BMJ. 2011;343:d4489.  [PubMed]

and also in this reference article.

Secret #2: Screenings by Vein Franchises in Tents and Booths

This occurs at golf outings, 5K runs, wine tastings, yoga classes, and similar social functions. These gatherings are just a means of creating more patient volume by recruiting more victims. This marketing technique is used by unscrupulous entrepreneurial vein centers in our region.

If your veins are asymptomatic, they do not need treated. Almost everyone has a few veins that are unsightly.

Insurance companies won’t cover the costs of cosmetic veins at all. This is another example of how unnecessary testing is wrapped up into patient’s evaluations.

Secret #3: Laser Companies Push Doctors to Do More Procedures

Companies that make lasers, medicine, and equipment to treat varicose veins are in a very competitive business. Many are listed on stock exchanges and are worth millions or billions of dollars.

Industry (laser companies) push volume. Their goal is to maximize returns for their stockholders and become financially successful and more profitable.

The greater volume of products that they sell, the more they make. To exemplify this principle, many companies who sell equipment and products will actually give a laser or radio frequency generator worth tens of thousands of dollars to a vein center only if the vein doctors can meet a volume quota. This is an incentive to perform unnecessary procedures to meet their quota.

Now do you see why free screenings and competing aggressively to market vein services occur?

Vein procedure and centers are growing at a rapid rate. Fifteen years ago, only a few doctors specialized in vein treatments. It has grown from a cottage industry into a widely franchised business model.

Today there seems to be a vein center on almost every corner.

Secret #4: To Save Money, Some Vein Centers Resterilize Laser and Radio Frequency Fibers.

That is forbidden by the Intersocietal Accreditation Committee (IAC) which inspects and accredits vein centers.

Would you want the needles and syringes that are used to draw blood samples to be resterilized like in third world countries?

Of course, not.

Make sure the vein center that you choose does not carry out the practice of resterilizing disposable equipment.

Secret #5: Compounded Vein Medicine Has Higher Risks

Some vein centers buy medicine for vein injections from compounding pharmacies instead of the two FDA approved manufacturers, Mertz and Angiodynamics.

Impurities in these compounded medicines and the risk of infection make these practices forbidden by the IAC which accredits vein centers in this country.

Make sure that your vein center only uses FDA approved medication in their injections.

Secret #6: Many Vein Centers in Pittsburgh are Operated by Doctors with Sketchy Qualifications.

Some list combined years of experience among all of the doctors in the practice to hide some individual deficiencies.

They all claim to be board certified. You must ask – board certified in what?

Did they receive their medical training in general surgery (they only trained in stripping veins), emergency medicine, family medicine, radiology, gynecology or even proctology?

All of these types of doctors are currently practicing on veins in vein centers and med spas here in Pittsburgh.

Only vascular surgeons are trained in all aspects of treating venous disease.

Secret #7: Purchasing Medical Services with Coupons or So-Called Group Discounts Does Not Make Sense.

I’m talking about Groupon.

Groupons for a medical service?


I get it when you’re using a Groupon for a free entrée or sandwich.

Places that offer these coupons for medical services are out for a fast buck.

The same goes for free vein consultations, free vein screenings, credit card enticements and bribes (like a $25 gift card) to come in for that free consultation.

Secret #8: Hospital Owned Vein Centers Charge an Expensive Additional Facility Fee

Choose an independent practice devoted exclusively to vein treatments. Avoid the facility fee.

Vein practices that have been bought by hospitals must charge you an additional facility fee.

As described in Medscape, it will cost you three to four times more if you go to a hospital owned vein center.

Hospitals bill the physician component separately from the facility component. When a hospital buys a vein practice, it automatically adds on the extra facility component.

The facility fee is the most expensive part of your bill at these hospital owned vein offices.


Franchised vein centers and med spas that offer vein services must be entrepreneurial to survive.

Franchised vein centers and med spa vein centers have the following in common:

  • Their mission is to maximize profits.
  • Many are run and operated by doctors with sketchy qualifications and training.
  • Their vein doctors lack formal training in veins.
  • Their vein doctors are learning from the mistakes that they make on unsuspecting patients who don’t research their qualifications until it’s too late.

Accreditation of the entire vein center is the only way of regulating these bush-league practices.

Make sure that your chosen vein center is accredited by the Intersocietal Accreditation Commission. That is the best way of avoiding these bogus medical businesses.

Competition in the vein field is fierce.

Real boards like the Board of Surgery or the Board of Internal Medicine are recognized by the American Board of Medical Specialties.

Hospitals don’t recognize this pseudo board and neither should you.

Vein centers are quack magnets. Their volume of procedures determines their income. Are they listing your treating doctor’s individual experience or the franchised vein center’s cumulative experience (not their own) in their advertising? Who trained them?

Changing insurance regulations and strong competition in an overcrowded field are pushing some vein centers to the dark side.

Choose a board-certified vascular surgeon at an accredited vein center which is certified by the Intersocietal Accreditation Commission to be sure that you are having your vein treatments by a trained vein specialist in the safest possible environment.

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.