Pandemic made varicose vein surgeries by SUS plummet 69% in the country

Varicose vein surgeries by the Unified Health System (SUS) across the country dropped, on average, 69% over 2021, compared to 2019, before the covid-19 pandemic. The Brazilian Society of Angiology and Vascular Surgery (SBACV) analyzed data from the Ministry of Health and issued an alert, which goes beyond the aesthetic issue:

“Without proper care, varicose veins imply a loss of quality of life, especially for women, in whom they are more prevalent, who can suffer from pain and discomfort, compromising their routine. In addition, varicose veins can evolve into serious situations that are difficult to reverse, such as stasis ulcers, which are chronic wounds that are difficult to heal and which have a great economic impact and on the patient’s quality of life,” said Julio Peclat, president of SBACV. .


Two years ago, the public network accounted for 68,743 varicose vein surgeries performed in the public network. The volume includes surgical treatments of bilateral and unilateral varicose veins, as well as the resection (extraction) of the veins. In 2020, the year in which the pandemic was decreed, in March, this total fell by 59%, with 28,354 operations being recorded.

According to the Brazilian Society of Angiology and Vascular Surgery, even in the face of the effort of services spread across the country to resume care in 2021, the number of surgeries performed last year was still insufficient to recover pre-pandemic levels. The deficit was 24% in the volume of surgeries for varicose veins. The absolute data was 21,604 procedures.

Over ten years (2011-2021), SUS performed 552,332 varicose vein operations, with an annual average of 55,233 cases attended. Thus, the result achieved last year was only 40% of that number.


In a state cut, the data show that 26, of the 27 Brazilian states, decreased the number of surgeries for varicose veins performed throughout 2021, compared to 2019.

The main changes were observed in the following units: Acre (-95%), Espírito Santo (-92%), Mato Grosso do Sul (-92%), Bahia (-84%), Paraná (-84%), Federal District (-74%), Minas Gerais (-73%), Ceará (-70%), Pará (-70%) and São Paulo (-67%). In other states, the rates ranged from -15% (Alagoas) to -66% (Paraíba). The only state to register a positive result was Mato Grosso (44%).

Although similar behavior was recorded in all Brazilian regions, in proportional terms, the North Region had the worst performance, with a 72% drop in the number of surgeries during the evaluation period. Then come the South (-71%), the Southeast (-70%), the Northeast (-63%) and the Center-West (-51%).

For Mateus Borges, director of publications at SBACV who coordinated the survey, it is necessary to understand that varicose veins are a public health problem, with individual and collective consequences.

For SBACV specialists, the low demand during the pandemic was due to the fear of patients going to offices and hospitals for consultations and surgeries for fear of exposing themselves to the new coronavirus. This resulted in a “blackout” of this type of surgery.

Borges understands that, after the critical scenario of the pandemic, it is necessary to promote an information campaign to make the population aware of the importance of care. The president of SBACV adds that this must occur with the adoption of planning measures and reinforcement of the service infrastructure to accommodate the repressed demand.


Varicose veins are elongated, dilated and tortuous veins that develop below the skin and, depending on their stage of development, can be small, medium or large. The lower limbs (feet, legs and thighs) are the most affected.

The causes of the disease are varied and include genetic predisposition, pregnancy and old age. In addition, the prevalence of the condition is more common in women.

When left untreated, the disease can give rise to other complications. The main and highest risk are: phlebitis, thrombosis, in addition to spots on the legs and wounds (ulcers). They can also progress to venous insufficiency, with symptoms such as a feeling of heaviness, tiredness and burning in the legs, as well as numbness, changes in skin texture – making it more susceptible to injury -, ulcers, infections and bleeding.

Other side

wanted by Brazil Agency the Ministry of Health’s advisory informed that, even facing a pandemic scenario in the country, the ministry supported states and municipalities to maintain the population’s access to services performed in the Unified Health System (SUS).

“In 2020, more than 31 thousand surgeries for varicose veins were performed in the Unified Health System (SUS). In 2021, still preliminary numbers, reported by states and municipalities, show that about 28,000 surgeries were performed for this purpose. All procedures reported are paid for by the portfolio”, the Ministry stressed, adding that SUS is tripartite and it is up to states and municipalities to offer procedures and services, according to local demand and the need of each location.

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