If You Have Varicose Veins in Pittsburgh, Choose Option A

If You Have Varicose Veins in Pittsburgh, Choose Option A

When Choosing a Vein Center in Pittsburgh,

There are Four Basic Flavors of Vein Clinics.

one fingerHere are your options.

Option A is the traditional private practice.

Happel Laser & Vein Center is an example of this type of one-on-one doctor-patient relationship.

One doctor cares for you every step of the way.

That physician will personally see you for your consultation (unlike at a vein franchise), discuss and explain your pre-treatment ultrasound testing with you (unlike at a franchise), perform your vein procedure, and will personally see you for all of your post procedure checkup visits.

Here are Dr. Happel’s unique qualifications and credentials.

He will be personally available to you on his cell phone 24/7 for any questions, issues or concerns.

Option B is a vein franchise.

franchise on keyboardUSA Vein Clinics is a national vein franchise which purchased the bankrupt Circulatory Centers.

The biggest vein franchise in Pittsburgh used to be the Circulatory Center.

The Circulatory Centers filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.  Its primary creditor was the Fifth Third Bank which claimed that it was owed $3.5 million dollars although the exact amount was in dispute.

All separately filed bankruptcy cases were combined into one large bankruptcy against the Circulatory Center. Sixteen other creditors have also filed against the Circulatory Center but the amount owed to them was not in dispute.

When you went to the Circulatory Center, they asked that everyone with veins who came to their office receive an ultrasound test. Although necessary for varicose vein patients, it is an added and unnecessary test for patients with only spider veins.

Even if the Doppler ultrasound test was positive in patients with spider veins, insurance companies will not pay for their treatment. It is our opinion that you should not agree to an unnecessary ultrasound test if you only have spider veins.

At the Circulatory Center, you did not see a doctor on the day of your consultation. Nurses, assistants and employees directed your pre and post procedure care. They insulated you from the doctor.

vein franchise signThe doctors at these franchises were often trained in family practice, emergency medicine and other non-vascular specialties. Their doctors were diplomats of the American College of Venous and Lymphatic Medicine.

That certificate is given by the American College of Phlebology after the doctor passes a test. Potential vein doctors become members to appear to the public as experts in the field.

This type of certification is not recognized by the American Board of Medical Specialties. It is not board certification in veins. Hospitals don’t accept this non ABMS certification and neither should you.

Option C is a Cosmetic Med Spa.

In Pittsburgh, that includes the Skin Center and Body Beautiful Laser Medi-Spa (also known as Advanced Vein Center).

Med spas focus on cosmetic procedures and try to make you feel pampered. Fluffy robes, healthy snacks, and icy cucumber water are nice.

However, when you have a true medical problem like painful varicose veins, you need more than a spa.

did you know signDid you know that Medi-spas are widely unregulated but have some kind of a doctor affiliation. If you are never examined or even treated by a doctor, you are taking a big chance.

Don’t assume a med spa is as safe as an accredited vein center just because the word, medi or med is in the name.

Being located at a strip mall facility or a beauty salon should set off alarms. This kind of a setting should be a red flag.

An experienced, board certified vascular surgeon who specializes in vein disease is always your best bet.

You won’t find this at a med spa. You wouldn’t go to a Chinese buffet for a quality steak, would you?

Med spas are in Pittsburgh are not accredited and have not been inspected.

Check the qualifications and credentials of these facilities where you will become a patient and not a client.

Option D is a university facility like UPMC or Allegheny Health Network

doctor in white coatYour doctor will be an academic professor or researcher of some kind.

The vein doctors in a vascular surgery department do not treat veins full time.

Their vein doctors are vascular surgeons who treat veins part-time and arteries part of the time. Experience matters. You probably want a vein doctor who focusses on vein problems every day.

You may be asked verbally to be a part of a clinical study where one type of treatment is being compared to another. Your consent form for your vein procedure will include words to this effect.

Facility fees are part of the deal when they take you to a hospital or surgery center. Vein practices that have been bought up by a hospital or an insurance company (like Allegheny Health Network) tack on these controversial additional charges.

They are also added onto outpatient centers and doctor’s offices. Hospitals argue that they can’t survive without these extraneous fees that can double or triple your total cost. These sneaky added fees will not be disclosed to you in advance.

When you have a high deductible like many people these days, that could mean thousands of extra dollars in cost out of your pocket. The fairness of this type of practice is facing scrutiny in Congress. Hospitals and powerful unions are opposing change in this lucrative practice.

Always ask if the vein center that you are considering to go to charges a “facility fee”.

You must also realize that university centers are designed for teaching. Residents, students, and the team approach are part of the ticket for admission.

With a team of “providers”, your care will be divided among medical professionals with different degrees of training, education, and experience. Your care will be allocated among several individuals.

You will be a case. As a matter of fact, you may be part of a case study. Wait times are typically longer in this type of environment.

People often complain that they feel that this type of treatment is more impersonal.


Happel Laser and Vein Center signChoose only a reputable, qualified and trained vascular surgeon vein specialist for the treatment of your varicose veins.

There can be unfavorable consequences when you just pick the closest or most convenient vein doctor.

Experience, availability, and the skill set of a board certified vascular surgeon are important criteria that you should investigate.

High costs including controversial facility fees, unnecessary testing (resulting in unnecessary procedures) and quackery run rampant in this field of medicine.

Be careful of the hidden costs of a practice that has been bought by a hospital. That can double or triple your total bill.

Be very discriminating in your choice of a vein center and vein specialist.

Choose wisely.

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.