When the swelling in one Vinton woman's legs became so severe that she could hardly walk, she thought her happy, active life was over. She found relief and mobility again thanks to a quick procedure to open up her pelvic vein.
51-year-old Debra Hebert is just happy to be standing again after years of enduring painful leg swelling that doctors told her they could not treat. "They had told me pretty much that for the rest of my life I would be in my bed with my legs elevated," said Debra, "because they were so big, and they were so swollen."
The problem started when Debra's shift work job became more sedentary. "I couldn't see where my calves and my ankles started and stopped and as the day got longer, my swelling got worse," she said.
Cardiologist Carl Fastabend with CHRISTUS St. Patrick Hospital/Vein Center of Southwest Louisiana says Debra had a common condition where the pelvic vein is compressed, reducing blood flow. "It's a genetic predisposition," said Dr. Fastabend, "and it's more common in women who have had multiple births. It's also more common in people who are overweight."
To see what is happening inside the vein, a catheter with an ultrasound is used by going through the groin. "We look at the vein through ultrasound from inside the vein and if we see the compression syndrome we place stents," said Dr. Fastabend.
That process happens immediately as soon as the vein compression syndrome is diagnosed. A tiny stainless steel mesh stent is positioned inside the vein to hold it open and get the blood flowing properly again. "Then we use the intravascular ultrasound afterwards to confirm that the stent's in proper position is properly opposed to the vessel wall and the result is what it should be," said Dr. Fastabend.
Debra says she could not have dreamed of a better outcome. "It was immediate," she said, "the next day I was back up on my legs and I haven't stopped since."
The only maintenance Debra requires today is a pair of compression socks. "No medications, I am working 7/12s, rocking and rolling, sitting at the desk, exercising, riding the bike, doing yard work, things that I couldn't do for about three years," she said.
If your job requires you to stand or sit for several hours, you are more at risk for developing pelvic vein problems. Some of the signs to look for are swollen legs, skin changes and chronic infections.
There is a free vein screening on Saturday, March 8 at CHRISTUS St. Patrick Hospital in Lake Charles. Call 491-7577 to get your spot.