However, the technology group BTG, which reported interim results yesterday, may have found a much more pleasant treatment. BTG, which specialises in hunting out and licensing intellectual property, has linked up with Dr Juan Cabrera, a Spanish surgeon who has invented a microfoam which painlessly dissolves varicose veins.
The novel foam, which contains known sclerotic agents, is injected into the veins, displacing blood and causing the blood vessels to collapse. The procedure, which has been carried out successfully by Dr Cabrera on nearly 1,000 men and women in Spain, can be carried out in the doctor's clinic and so is cheaper and quicker than surgery.
According to Ian Harvey, BTG's chief executive, the foam, was hailed as a breakthrough at a key phlebology (varicose veins) conference in Hawaii earlier this year and could be on the market in the UK in two years.
The product is just one of a myriad of promising inventions unearthed by BTG. Another is an advanced system to detect narcotics and explosives in airport luggage. The technology, developed by Kings College, London, has been licensed by BTG to US group Vivid, which screens over 70 per cent of the baggage handled at UK airports.