Healthy Living: The Iowa Vein Center

By: Deb O'Bryan

Dr. Jose Olivencia, medical director of the Iowa Vein Center, looks around his conference room. The clinic is decorated with colorful art from South America, and this room features a basket of intricately hand- carved walking sticks and canes.

Dr. Olivencia opened the Iowa Vein Center in 1988. Then and now it features state- of-the-art equipment and a pioneering technique for the treatment of vein disease, he says. Dr. Olivencia explains that when he first trained as a general surgeon, phlebology (the diagnosis and treatment of peripheral vein disease) was not yet a medical specialty. The American College of Phlebology was not formed until 1985. Very early in his career, Dr. Olivencia recognized that vein disease could be treated in an outpatient setting. In fact, his early training on the treatment of vein disease was in Europe, where he traveled often to learn the new techniques available. He also trained in Australia and South America, eventually bringing his knowledge and concepts to Des Moines.

"I knew in high school that I wanted to be a doctor," he says. "I also realized that I wanted to be a surgeon and that I wanted to train in the United States." He applied himself, graduated from college, and then went on to medical school in Argentina. He later had an internship at Mercy Medical Center in Des Moines.

He remained in Des Moines, working at Mercy and the VA hospital. At that time, treatment of vein disease was major surgery. Patients were hospitalized, and the surgery was performed under general anesthesia, he says. Patient recovery time was much longer, and they were often off work for a month following surgery.

Dr. Olivencia explains that some of his work involves educating other physicians on far less invasive techniques to treat patients suffering from varicose veins, leg ulcers, deep vein thrombosis, and chronic venous insufficiency. Dr. Olivencia and his staff successfully treat these conditions, as well as offering some cosmetic services such as the removal of unwanted hair and the treatment of spider veins.

Because the Iowa Vein Center specializes in the treatment of vein disease, it is designed to care for patients in an effective and efficient manner. Dr. Olivencia says. He proudly adds, "All of the Iowa Vein clinic staff are specialists in this care, and our patients are made to feel comfortable. Patients heal quickly, and we follow up on every patient until each patient is fully recovered. Our patients are often surprised at how minimal the downtime is after procedures and how soon they can return to work and their normal activities."

When asked whether most of the Iowa Vein Center patients are women, he comments, "Vein disease does not limit itself to any gender, and both men and women are affected. About 10% of our patients are men."

Recently, Dr. Olivencia treated a man whose legs had become discolored from chronic venous insufficiency. This occurs when veins in the legs aren't able to pump blood because the walls of the veins have become weak and the valves in the veins no longer work. Blood collects instead of flows, which results in the legs having a darkened appearance.

As part of his work to raise medical awareness and understanding of the less invasive techniques and the technology for treatment of venous disease, Dr. Olivencia actively helps train other medical practitioners. He has written a number of articles and is often a guest speaker at medical conferences to educate physicians and their staff. Dr. Olivencia says he enjoys teaching and looks forward to opportunities to train other doctors in phlebology.

It gives Dr. Olivencia great pleasure and personal satisfaction when his patients are happy with his work. "They feel great and wear shorts again. They go to the pool and are not ashamed of their legs anymore." Dr. Olivencia and his staff regularly receive a number of thank-you cards and notes from patients who express appreciation for the treatments they have received."

One of the things patients like about the Iowa Vein Center is its size," he points out. "Patients don't have to go into a huge hospital. The outpatient surgical center is located next door to the Iowa Vein Center. Everything is on one floor with no elevators or stairways to confuse people. Patients like the fact that the Iowa Vein Center specializes in phlebology, and they feel that I and my staff go the extra mile to make them feel comfortable."

Dee Dee, one of Dr. Olivencia's patients, states that her legs were hurting and she was noticing dark blue and purple "road map" lines in her legs, a common sign of varicose veins. "I was able to get an appointment quickly, and the staff was very friendly. They explained each step of the initial testing and worked with my insurance company to preapprove my surgery. Scheduling the procedure was easy, and I expect that I'll be back at work in a couple of days."

Carol is another one of Dr. Olivencia's patients. She came to see him after medication failed to help the pain in her legs. She could feel rope-like bumps under her skin. She says she is now looking forward to scheduling outpatient surgery to correct her varicose veins and get relief from her leg pain.

Dr. Olivencia says he feels that the relationship between patient and doctor is very important. He explains that there are a lot of regulations affecting patient care, and often there is pressure to discharge patients quickly from a hospital setting, leaving little opportunity for doctor and patient contact. He says that the staff at the Iowa Vein Center makes sure that their patients are comfortable and have the opportunity to visit with the doctors, ask questions, and get answers. "We strive to make each patient feel important and special. The Iowa Vein Center stands apart from some other facilities because we only specialize in venous disease. The facility is designed exclusively for the treatment and cafe of varicose veins and other venous disorders. This allows the Iowa Vein Center and its staff to be very efficient and competent at what they do. Technology is always changing and advancing. And we stay current with those advances."

Throughout the years, Dr. Olivencia has prided himself on the pioneering techniques he has introduced in Des Moines for the treatment of vein disease. He says that he also prides himself on keeping the Iowa Vein Center on the cutting-edge of these advances, as well as offering the very best and most modern techniques to treat patients.

The Iowa Vein Center is located at 2425 Westown Parkway in West Des Moines. For more information about vein disease and treatments, visit or call 222-VEIN (8346) or 888-228-VEIN.

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