How to Find a Vein Specialist the Right Way – Happel Vein Center

How to Find a Vein Specialist the Right Way – Happel Vein Center

Tips on How to Choose Your Pittsburgh Vein Specialist Wisely

Lately, in Pittsburgh, there is a proliferation of vein supermarkets which promote their vein doctors as “vein specialists”.

Pittsburgh is unique in that most of the vein care in our city is provided in med spas.

All of the doctors in these spas or vein supermarkets claim to be vein specialists.

This is disingenuous.

To find the real truth, you have to dig a little deeper.

Some say the doctor must have completed residency training in – “something” – anything at all is OK with them.

Waivers on these requirements are accepted.

Warning: Doctors are excellent test takers.

They will also help advertise for you on their web site (part of the application fee.)

Then these doctors use this “degree” to advertise on their own web sites, billboards, TV and radio.

This gives themselves some degree of credibility in the public’s eye.

In actuality, many have trained in a field that has nothing or very little to do with treating veins.

Who IS Really Qualified to Treat Venous Disease?

  • A lot of vein doctors claim to have strong credentials.
  • A lot of doctors claim to be qualified to treat veins.
  • A lot of doctors claim to be vein specialists these days.

But if you dig a little deeper you find most of the self-proclaimed vein specialists in Pittsburgh have had a mid-life crisis.

What motivated all of these doctors to change their field in medicine?

When you examine their credentials closely, you see that they are not really vein specialists at all.

The top five fields of training for “vein specialists” in Pittsburgh are:

  1. General surgery
  2. Family Practice
  3. Radiology
  4. Cardiology
  5. Proctology (Really!)

In Boca Raton Florida, there are even podiatrists (foot doctors) on the top of the Google results when you do a search for varicose veins in that city.

Chiropractors are also offering treatment for varicose veins (just not in Pittsburgh yet).

Massage, natural supplements, and bogus creams and potions are on the vein treatment menu as well.

One of the biggest mistakes that people make when choosing a vein specialist is not qualifications but convenience.

Warning: Most people choose the nearest doctor for convenience. Convenience is a double-edged sword.

Many people have come to me for a second opinion after they previously had gone to another vein center and made that mistake of choosing the closest vein clinic.

Other reasons are that they never saw a doctor, their results were not what they expected, or their veins came back.

To avoid these problems, I have comprised this guide on how to choose a vein doctor.

Best Credential for Treating Veins: Board Certified in Vascular Surgery

The best trained and qualified vein doctors are vascular surgeons who have completed an approved fellowship training program.

Do you know what they call the doctor who graduates last in their medical school class?

The answer is – Doctor.

Always interview the doctor.

It sounds simple, but most vein franchises don’t let you talk to the doctor on your initial visit!

They aren’t even available. They aren’t in the building.

These are the clinics where a nurse or a PA (physician’s assistant) will do your consultation.

At those places ancillary staff order tests, they devise your treatment and plan out your treatments – without a doctor ever being involved.

At these friendly vein franchises, you won’t see a doctor until the day of your procedure.

What you don’t want from a vein specialist:

  • You don’t want a doctor who does veins “on the side.”
  • You don’t want a “vein specialist” who operates outside of their scope of practice.
  • You don’t want a part-time doctor who is employed by an entrepreneurial vein center just to do only the vein procedures.

Be skeptical of your chosen vein doctor’s education, training, and experience.

You must know beforehand:

  1. Where did they do their training?
  2. In which field are they actually board certified?
  3. What was their motivation and main interest during their studies and training?

Board-certified vascular surgeons are held to a higher standard.

They have established a level of expertise within their chosen field.

They have trained, are RPVI certified, and are experienced in vascular ultrasound. Ultrasound or Doppler training is crucial in the treatment of your varicose veins.

Board certified vascular surgeons have a broad base of knowledge of the entire vascular system. That includes both veins and arteries.

Venous disease is extremely complex.

That puts vascular surgeons in a unique position.

With their skill set and knowledge, they are in the best position in not only treating but also diagnosing your venous problem.

Being board certified in vascular surgery is the highest-level credential in the field of varicose veins treatment.

Ultrasound Technology Proficiency in a Vein Expert

To treat venous disease, a vein specialist must know how to perform and interpret venous Doppler or vascular ultrasound.

Proof of this experience and knowledge is the RVT or RPVI certification.

That stands for Registered Vascular Technologist and Registered Physician in Vascular Interpretation. That certification shows that the doctor can accurately perform and interpret vascular ultrasound images.

These credentials are the gold standard in the field by the American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography.

Expertise in vascular ultrasound is critical in treating varicose veins.

How can you expect a doctor who has never picked up a Doppler probe or even seen a venous procedure in their life to pick up a laser or a radiofrequency catheter and start treating your abnormal veins?

Vein Doctor’s Reputation and Reviews

We all have a digital footprint.

Doctors are reviewed just like restaurants, movies and books.

Check out how past patients felt about their care.

Find out their personal experiences.

Learn ahead of time about:

  • their bed side manner
  • their professionalism
  • the doctor’s availability
  • waiting times
  • the staff
  • the efficiency of the office
  • the ease of making appointments
  • parking
  • their ability to handle insurance claims (a huge compliant on the internet)

Make sure you read about your actual doctor on the internet (not the vein center where you are likely to be passed around from provider to provider.)

You can get a good feel for the physician by reading recommendations or problems that other people experienced at that particular office.

Consider online reviews these days with a grain of salt. The best vein doctors may have a few good reviews whereas many plastic surgeons may have paid search engine companies to garner many reviews.

Read our YELP and Google reviews. and also provide doctor reviews.

Some Vein Specialists Push Treatments on You

The field of treating varicose veins like many other in medicine has become very entrepreneurial.

People are generally more skeptical about being cheated at a mechanic’s garage than at a vein specialist’s office.

If you feel pressured or not sure that a recommended vein service is really needed or is overly aggressive, always get a second opinion.

Don’t hesitate to get a second opinion if you feel that you are being sold a procedure or if you are uncomfortable with the plan.

Always get a second opinion if you never see a doctor at all on the day of your consultation. You must always meet and interview the vascular specialist who will be performing your procedures ahead of time.

There are ethical issues in the field of varicose vein treatments that I have discussed in the past.

This applies to the field of varicose vein disease where there has been an incredible 1600% increase in the number of procedures performed.

This is believed to be from unnecessary vein ablations and ultrasound testing is being done for profit. Peter Lawrence MD discussed this in his presidential address to the Society for Vascular Surgery.

Since the saphenous vein can be used as a replacement artery for blocked coronary or leg arteries, it should be preserved whenever possible. Therefore, an ultrasound test to diagnose saphenous vein or deep venous incompetence is not required when the patient presents only with spider veins.

Even if an incompetent saphenous vein is identified and treated by ablation or removal, the telangiectasia will still remain. 


Qualifications for treating varicose vein disease by most vein centers in Pittsburgh is made confusing – on purpose.

Board certified in vascular surgery is the highest-level credential in the field of varicose veins treatment.

Since there are many different kinds of doctors treating varicose veins, they must establish their credibility to the public.

Don’t be fooled.

Always research the doctors’ credentials and experience.

Make sure that your procedure is performed by a board-certified vascular surgeon personally and not delegated to other medical staff.

That’s the standard of care at Happel Laser & Vein Center.

Don’t settle for a less qualified or a less experienced vein specialist.

Choose a leader in the field to treat your veins.

Call us at 724-969-0600 or click here to learn more.

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.