Varicose vein surgery

Learn about the surgical procedure, costs and recovery for varicose vein surgery.

What is varicose vein surgery?1

Varicose veins are swollen or twisted blood vessels which are usually blue or dark purple in appearance and most frequently appear on your legs.

Varicose vein surgery can remove these veins – especially if they become problematic.

Varicose veins can cause a range of health problems, including blood clots, skin breakdown, and ulcers. In rarer cases, deep vein thrombosis can develop and spread to the lungs if blood clots get into the deeper veins in the leg.

There are two key surgical techniques to treat varicose veins (ligation and stripping, and phlebectomy2). They both involve using a series of small cuts to access and remove the veins.

Varicose vein surgery is usually performed by a vascular surgeon.

Woman with leg pain needing varicose vein surgery

Signs you might need varicose vein surgery1

Surgery is usually only performed on larger varicose veins, and may be recommended if you develop:

  • Throbbing or burning leg pain.
  • Cramping or restless legs.
  • Swollen ankles.
  • Darkening of the skin over the ankle.
  • An itchy rash.

Alternatives to varicose vein surgery1

Other forms of treatment and management of varicose veins include:

  • Injecting chemicals into the vein (sclerotherapy).
  • Sealing the veins with an electrical current.
  • Destroying the veins with laser or high-intensity light.
  • Wearing compression stockings.
  • Exercise.
  • Maintaining a healthy weight.
A man exercising to manage his varicose veins
Walking on the beach after recovering from varicose vein surgery

Varicose vein surgery recovery2

Most patients return home one to two days after varicose vein surgery.

  • Allow for one or two weeks off work and avoid heavy physical exertion.
  • Avoid long periods of standing or sitting with crossed legs.
  • Take at least a half-hour walk every day.
  • Swelling on the feet and ankles and calf muscle may take a few weeks to disappear.
  • Injuries to nerves may cause ‘pins and needles’ which may take up to two years to recover – or may be permanent.

Getting varicose vein surgery at a public vs private hospital

Note: Not all varicose vein removal surgery is done in hospital. It’s also commonly done as an outpatient procedure in a doctor’s practise.

It’s important to understand how getting your procedure in a public or private hospital differs.

Public system (Without health insurance)
Private system (With health insurance)

Will I avoid public hospital waiting lists?

  • No.
  • Yes.

Will I be able to choose my hospital?

  • No.
  • Yes.

Will I be able to choose my doctor or surgeon?

  • No.
  • Yes.

Will I have out-of-pocket costs?

  • No.
  • Yes.

What is the cost of varicose vein surgery?

As an outpatient procedure

Varicose vein surgery is sometimes done as an outpatient procedure – and this can have a big impact on your cost and coverage.

Health insurance usually won’t cover outpatient procedures, and Medicare coverage may vary.

How do I know if I’m an outpatient?

Our best recommendation is to ask your GP, specialist or hospital about it.

An ‘outpatient’ is someone who is not formally admitted to hospital. It’s easy to tell you’re an outpatient if your surgery isn’t done in a hospital. But sometimes even a surgery done in a hospital is considered an outpatient procedure. The rules can be confusing, so it’s worth asking about.

In a public hospital

In a public hospital, varicose vein surgery is covered by Medicare for eligible residents.

Once you are discharged from hospital, you may still need to pay out-of-pocket for things like medicines and health services (like physiotherapy or occupational therapy).

In a private hospital, using health insurance

In a private hospital, private health insurance can cover some costs of varicose vein surgery.

You may have an out-of-pocket cost if you use private hospital cover when you get treatment. You can minimise some of these costs by choosing a hospital and specialist that have agreements with your health insurer.

If you have an excess on your cover, you will have to pay for that out of pocket.

What is hospital excess?

What is an out-of-pocket cost?

How to find health cover for varicose vein surgery

Minimise your costs

Ask your GP for an open referral

Your GP is the one who’ll most likely refer you to a specialist – but you may want the option to choose your own specialist.

Asking for an open referral can let you:

  • Choose your own specialist.
  • Find a specialist with good availability who can perform treatment at the hospital you prefer.
  • Find a specialist that you trust to perform your surgery.
  • Find a specialist with minimum out-of-pocket expenses for you.

Find a vascular surgeon with minimum out-of-pocket costs

To find vascular surgeons who have an agreement with HBF, just search for ‘vascular surgeon’ in our find a provider tool.

  • Look for the “Full Cover” tick mark or “Access Gap Cover” tick mark.
  • These specialists will help minimise your out-of-pocket cost.

Find a Provider

If you’ve already started working with a specialist

If you’ve already got a specialist, ask them these questions:

  • Do you have a Full Cover or No Gap agreement with HBF?
    If they don’t, you may need to consider if their fees work with your budget.
  • What hospital(s) do you operate in?
    You can then check if the hospital has a Full Cover or No Gap agreement with HBF.

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