phlebologist analysing a vein with varicose veins

What is a Phlebologist?

When seeking treatment for varicose veins, it’s crucial to ensure your doctor is qualified and experienced. In Australia, several types of doctors specialize in vein treatments, including phlebologists, vein specialists, and vascular surgeons. The Australasian College of Phlebology offers comprehensive training programs for phlebologists, ensuring they have the necessary expertise to treat venous disorders. Each of these professionals has different levels of training, expertise, and approaches to treating venous disorders. Here’s a breakdown to help you understand the differences and choose the right specialist for your needs.


A phlebologist is a doctor with  experience in treating vein disorders, particularly varicose veins. Although “phlebologist” is not a formal title recognised by the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (APHRA), these doctors often have extensive understanding in non-surgical treatments for varicose veins, chronic venous insufficiency, and deep vein thrombosis. They also treat spider veins. They typically spend years training in techniques such as endovenous laser ablation, foam sclerotherapy, and Venaseal procedures.

Organisations like the Australian College of Phlebology and the ANZ Society of Phlebology play a significant role in training Australian doctors in vein treatments. Over the past two decades, phlebologists in Australia have been pioneers in enhancing the standards of vein care globally. They focus on minimally invasive procedures that are generally safe and carry little risk, providing effective solutions for patients with varicose veins.

Vein Specialists for Venous Disease

The term “vein specialist” is used by Australian doctors who have expertise in treating venous disorders, although it is not a formal medical title. These specialists may be members of the Royal Australian College of Radiology, Royal Australian College of Surgeons, or Royal Australian College of Dermatologists. While there is no official vein specialty, the title indicates that the doctor has specialist medical credentials and significant experience in vein treatments.

Specialist training programs in Australia are rigorous and respected globally, ensuring that vein specialists are well-equipped to diagnose and treat various venous conditions. They often use a range of non-surgical and minimally invasive techniques to manage varicose veins and other vein-related issues.

How do You Become a Phlebologist in Australia?

Becoming a phlebologist in Australia involves several steps, including obtaining medical qualifications, gaining specialized training, and obtaining certification. Here is a detailed pathway to becoming a phlebologist:

1. Medical Degree

First, you must complete a medical degree (MBBS or equivalent) from a recognized medical school. This typically takes around 5-6 years.

2. Internship and Residency

After completing your medical degree, you must undertake a year of internship followed by a residency program. This usually involves 2-3 years of general medical practice to gain broad clinical experience.

3. General Registration

Once you have completed your internship and residency, you can apply for general registration with the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA). This allows you to practice as a medical doctor in Australia.

Specialized Training in Phlebology at the Australasian College of Phlebology

To specialize in phlebology, you need to undertake further training in the diagnosis and treatment of venous disorders. This can be achieved through several pathways:

  • Australian College of Phlebology (ACP): The ACP offers a renowned and comprehensive training program for doctors wishing to specialize in phlebology. This includes the following steps:

  • Foundation Year (Basic Training): This involves a year of training under supervision, where you will learn the basics of venous diseases and their treatments.

  • Advanced Training: After completing the foundation year, you can proceed to advanced training, which typically takes 2-3 years. This includes comprehensive training in procedures like endovenous laser ablation, sclerotherapy, and other minimally invasive techniques. The training also includes understanding clotting disorders, which is crucial for managing venous disease and related conditions.

  • Fellowship: Upon successful completion of the advanced training, you can apply for fellowship with the ACP, allowing you to practice as a certified phlebologist.

5. Additional Certifications and Training

Some phlebologists may choose to obtain additional certifications and training to enhance their expertise. This can include:

Ultrasound Training: Proficiency in ultrasound is essential for diagnosing venous conditions and guiding treatments.

Continued Professional Development (CPD): Engaging in ongoing education and training to stay updated with the latest advancements in phlebology.

6. Practice and Experience

Gaining practical experience by working in clinics or hospitals that specialize in venous diseases is crucial. This helps build expertise and confidence in performing various venous procedures.

7. Professional Memberships

Joining professional organizations, such as the Australian and New Zealand Society of Phlebology (ANZSP) and the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP), can provide additional support, resources, and networking opportunities.

Who Treats Varicose Veins in Australia?

In Australia, several types of healthcare professionals treat varicose veins, each with their own specialized training and approaches. Here are the main types of doctors who provide treatment for varicose veins:

1. Phlebologists

Phlebologists are doctors who specialize in diagnosing and treating vein disorders, particularly varicose veins. They also treat diseased veins and leg ulcers. Although “phlebologist” is not a formal title recognized by the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA), these doctors often have extensive training in non-surgical treatments for varicose veins, such as endovenous laser ablation, foam sclerotherapy, and Venaseal procedures. Organizations like the Australian College of Phlebology provide specialized training and certification for doctors in this field.

2. Vascular Surgeons

Vascular surgeons are highly trained specialists who treat disorders of the arteries and veins. They are capable of performing both surgical and minimally invasive procedures to treat varicose veins. This includes traditional vein stripping, endovenous laser treatments, and sclerotherapy. Vascular surgeons undergo rigorous training and are members of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons (RACS).

3. Vein Specialists

The term “vein specialist” is used for doctors who have significant expertise in treating venous disorders. Vein specialists use ultrasound to monitor blood flow. These specialists may be from various medical backgrounds, including dermatology, radiology, or general surgery. Understanding a patient’s medical history is crucial before treatment. Although there is no formal “vein specialist” title, these professionals often have additional training and experience in venous treatments and are members of various specialist colleges, such as the Royal Australian College of Radiology, the Royal Australian College of Surgeons, and the Royal Australian College of Dermatologists.

4. Interventional Radiologists

Interventional radiologists use imaging techniques to guide minimally invasive procedures. They are skilled in treatments such as endovenous laser ablation and foam sclerotherapy, providing non-surgical options for varicose vein treatment. Interventional radiologists often work in collaboration with other specialists to provide comprehensive care.


Is there a Medicare Rebate for Treatment and Assessment of Varicose Vein in Australia?

Yes, Medicare in Australia provides rebates for the treatment and assessment of varicose veins, but the eligibility for these rebates depends on specific criteria and the type of treatment being performed.

Eligibility for Medicare Rebates

1. Clinical Necessity: Medicare rebates are generally available for treatments deemed medically necessary. This means that the varicose veins must be causing significant symptoms or complications such as pain, swelling, or skin changes (e.g., ulcers or dermatitis).

2. Referral: You might need a referral from your general practitioner (GP) to see a docotr for assessment and treatment of varicose veins.

3. Approved Treatments: Certain treatments for varicose veins are covered by Medicare, including:

– Endovenous laser ablation (EVLA)

– Ultrasound-guided sclerotherapy

– Vein ligation and stripping

– Other minimally invasive procedures

4. Diagnostic Tests: Medicare also covers some diagnostic tests, such as duplex ultrasound scans, which are used to assess the severity of varicose veins and plan treatment.

How to Claim Medicare Rebates

Consultation Fees: When you visit a specialist with a GP referral, Medicare typically covers a portion of the consultation fee. The rebate amount depends on whether the specialist bulk bills or charges above the Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) fee.

Procedures: For procedures, Medicare rebates are available if the procedure is listed on the MBS . The MBS provides a detailed list of services and associated rebate amounts.

Out-of-Pocket Costs

Even with Medicare rebates, there might be out-of-pocket costs, particularly if the specialist charges more than the MBS fee. Some private health insurance policies might cover additional costs, so it’s advisable to check with your insurer about coverage for varicose vein treatments.

Choosing the Right Doctor for Varicose Vein Treatment

When deciding on a doctor for varicose vein treatment, consider the following factors:

  • Specialty: Determine whether the doctor is a phlebologist, vein specialist, or vascular surgeon based on your specific needs and the complexity of your condition. Vein doctors are experts in diagnosing and treating veins.

  • Training: Look at the level of training the doctor has in the particular procedure you require. Vein doctors often have extensive training in treating veins.

  • Experience: Check how many procedures the doctor has performed and their success rates. Vein doctors are skilled in managing venous disease.

  • Comfort: Ensure you feel comfortable with your treating doctor, as a positive patient-doctor relationship is crucial for successful treatment.

Venous treatments performed by experienced doctors are generally safe and effective. If you experience symptoms of varicose veins, such as swelling, heaviness, aching, and discomfort, consult with a vascular surgeon, phlebologist, or vein specialist to discuss your treatment options, including endovenous laser therapy.

By understanding the differences between these specialists, you can make an informed decision and receive the best possible care for your varicose veins.

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