Endovenous ablation uses laser energy or radiofrequency to cauterize and close varicose veins in the legs. The procedure can be used for cosmetic reasons; however, it’s often used to help minimize the symptoms associated with the varicose vein, such as skin irritation, swelling, aching, inflammation or discoloration. Endovenous ablation or varicose vein treatment is minimally invasive compared to conventional surgery. It’s also safe and leaves virtually no scars.
Patients should inform their doctor about any recent medical conditions, allergies, illnesses, and drugs they are taking, including aspirin and herbal supplements. Doctors may recommend for one to stop taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), blood thinners or aspirin some days before the procedure.
What is endovenous laser therapy?
It’s an image-guided, less invasive treatment for varicose veins (abnormally large veins that occur due to blood pools in the veins of the leg). The procedure uses laser energy or radiofrequency to burn and close the diseased veins that cause varicose veins.
Before the procedure commences, the doctor injects local anesthesia to help numb the area. The anesthesia serves as heat insulation of the laser energy or radiofrequency. A laser fiber is directed to the targeted area within the vein through an IV. Laser energy is then applied, burning the vein and causing it to close. After the treatment, the diseased vein will shrink and “scar down.”
The endovenous laser therapy is often outpatient; however, some patients may need admission after the procedure. The entire process takes about an hour.
Benefits vs. risks
- Endovenous laser therapy is minimally invasive – it involves a small skin incision made at the site, which doesn’t need stitches.
- Laser treatment is more effective, has fewer complications, and is linked to less pain during recovery, which cannot be said for the conventional vein stripping procedures.
- In general, the endovenous laser therapy is safe and complication free
- The procedure is less invasive than standard surgery
- It leaves no scars as catheter placement needs only a few millimeters of the skin opening
- Most of the treated veins remain effectively invisible (even to ultrasound) a year after the endovenous laser therapy.
- Most people report relief of symptoms, with little or no pain, and often resume their duties immediately
Like with any medical procedure, the laser treatment also presents its own sets of risks. Here are some common endovenous laser ablation side effects:
- Risk of infection – any process that involves incision presents a risk of infection. However, the likelihood of the infection to needing antibiotic treatment is less than 1 in 1,000.
- Damage of blood vessel – any process that includes incision of the catheter inside an artery or vein presents some percentage of risk. The risk consists of bleeding or bruising at the puncture site, damage to the blood vessel and infection. Luckily, there are sets of precautions in place to take care of such risks whenever they arise
- Nerve damage – although very rare, there are cases where the heat destroys the nerves. But this subsides after a short while.
- Inflammation of the vein which may lead to redness and pain around the site, but responds well the NSAIDs or ice treatment
- There are also extremely rare cases of blood clots