Q: What is endovenous ablation?
A: Endovenous ablation is a treatment for closing the saphenous vein in the leg, which is typically the main superficial vein associated with varicose veins. This treatment can be performed with either laser or radiofrequency (RF) technology.
Q: How does endovenous ablation work? What does it do to a varicose vein?
A: A thin catheter (flexible tube) is inserted into the vein through a tiny skin puncture, and the entire length of the vein is treated with laser or radiofrequency through the catheter, thus "injuring" the vein's wall.
This causes the veins to close and eventually turn into scar tissue.
By treating the saphenous vein, it also helps the visible varicose veins regress. For the varicosities that do not completely regress, adjunctive procedures of sclerotherapy injections and/or microphlebectomies are recommended.
Sclerotherapy involves the injection of a specially-developed solution (Sotradecol) into the varicose vein. The solution then hardens, causing the vein to close up or collapse.
Microphlebectomies involve the removal of the vein by tiny punctures or incisions along the path of the enlarged vein. Through these tiny holes, we use a surgical hook to remove the varicose vein, which results in minimal scarring.
Q: Does loss of a laser-treated vein create a health problem in any way?
A: The leg has two systems of veins, the deep and the superficial. Between these two systems there are many collateral pathways to enable normal venous blood flow. When the diseased superficial system is treated, the blood gets redirected into the deep system without affecting blood flow in the leg.
Q: What is the recovery time after endovenous laser treatment?
A: Patients are encouraged to start walking immediately after the procedure, but they should avoid any strenuous exercises involving the legs (such as weight training) for two to three weeks, to enable adequate time for healing and for the treated veins to remain closed. There is bruising and mild discomfort in the treated leg for two to four weeks.
Q: How much time does it take to see the results after the laser procedure?
A: Within one week patients may start to notice a difference in the prominence of their varicose veins, but complete results may take weeks to months. Additionally, some patients may require adjunctive procedures depending on the severity of their varicose veins, as mentioned above.
Q: What is the risk of recurrence of varicose veins after endovenous ablation treatment?
A: Varicose veins are the result of a progressive disease, and while we can treat the problematic veins now, it is up to the individual patient, their genetics, and their lifestyle which dictate whether other varicosities will develop over time.
Q: What are the risks and potential complications of the laser/RF procedure?
A: The goal of the endovenous procedure is to thrombose, or clot, the saphenous vein (a superficial vein). Rarely, there are situations where the clot can extend into the deep vein system and cause a DVT (deep venous thrombosis).
Should this happen, a short course of blood thinners is warranted to treat and prevent further clot extension. Other infrequent complications are skin infection (which is prevented by performing the procedure under sterile conditions) and bleeding.
Q: How does laser/RF treatment compare with other treatment options, including surgery?
A: Previous generations performed the tradition “vein stripping" in which the entire saphenous vein would be removed through large skin incisions, with less than cosmetic results. With the current endovenous ablation, there is no need for skin incisions to obtain excellent results of varicose vein resolution.