Varicose Vein Treatment: Endovenous Laser Therapy

Written By Center for Vein Restoration
Endovenous laser therapy

Chronic venous insufficiency (CVI), or vein disease, is often the culprit of varicose veins and other troublesome symptoms, like spider veins and leg swelling. Though CVI is more prevalent in women than men, it affects approximately 33 million people aged 40 – 80.

The prevalence of vein disease equates to substantial loss. CVI can result in venous ulcers and blood clots. These late complications cause the loss of about 2 million workdays and are a financial burden for the United States healthcare system of three million dollars annually. Even without major complications, varicose veins alone contribute to a significant reduction in quality of life.

What Is Endovenous Laser Treatment?

Endovenous laser therapy, also called laser ablation, is performed by a vascular surgeon or board-certified vein specialist to treat medium to large varicose veins.

Varicose veins are enlarged, twisted veins which generally bulge and protrude below the skin's surface. They are blue or purple and are often noticeable on the feet, ankles, or legs.

Varicose veins result from malfunctioning vein valves and increased vascular pressure, known as venous hypertension. Elevated vascular pressure causes vein walls to stretch and grow in diameter.

The enlarged veins are then susceptible to blood pooling. The added blood accumulation at the affected area strains the valves, so they cannot close adequately. These factors often result in bothersome symptoms like the following:

Some people have laser ablation done for cosmetic reasons, as varicose veins often affect how people feel about their bodies or how they dress.

Many people never experience physical symptoms. Nevertheless, they are negatively impacted by these unsightly veins. They want to feel confident in shorts and a bathing suit. After laser ablation, the varicose veins are no longer visible, and confidence is restored.

Other people crave relief from the painful symptoms. Achy, heavy, sore legs impact your quality of life and reduce your ability to participate in fun activities. With endovenous laser treatment, veins disappear. As the vein fades, so goes the adverse side effects of this vein disease.

As you learn more about CVI and its long-term impact, preventing life-threatening complications can become a consideration. Many seek medical treatment to avoid sores, bleeding, and blood clots. Treatment of varicose veins using endovenous laser therapy improves quality of life, reduces uncomfortable side effects, and prevents complications.

Endovenous Laser Treatment Procedure

Laser ablation is a nonsurgical, minimally invasive in-office procedure to treat varicose veins. Two types of commonly utilized ablation therapies are radiofrequency ablation and laser ablation. These highly effective treatment modalities heat and seal the affected vein using a thin fiber.

After the malfunctioning vein is closed off, blood organically reroutes to healthy blood vessels, and the damaged vein fades away. Normal blood flow is then restored.

Laser ablation uses a thin beam of high-intensity light, while radiofrequency ablation uses high-frequency sound waves.

What to Expect During Endovenous Laser Treatment

During a pre-procedure evaluation, a vein specialist will assess the problem veins and perform an ultrasound to determine valve function and blood flow. Tell your healthcare provider if you have a history of a bleeding disorder. Also, inform the physician of medications that may affect clotting, like blood thinners, aspirin, or ibuprofen.

Day of procedure

On the day of the procedure, your vein specialist will perform another ultrasound of the varicose vein to determine the insertion placement of the catheter, a thin tube used to access the affected vein.

Experiencing some anxiety before any medical procedure is normal. A provider may give you medication (sedative) to help you relax. After you are comfortable, a local anesthetic is used to numb the area, drawing blood out of the affected vein and providing a fluid cushion that protects the surrounding tissue.

The whole procedure generally lasts no more than an hour. Because this is an outpatient procedure, you will go home the same day as your treatment and can return to normal activity immediately with few restrictions.

During the procedure

The vein specialist will make a small incision, usually near the ankle or below the knee, to allow for catheter insertion. This thin tube guides the thermal fiber to the affected vein. The fiber emits heat and permanently closes off the vein.

The unhealthy vein scars and then disappears. The blood naturally flows into the healthy blood vessels. Because the incision is so small, stitches are not typically needed.

After the procedure

Ligation and vein stripping are no longer the treatment of choice for varicose veins. State-of-the-art vascular care embraces minimally invasive procedures, like endovenous laser therapy, because of the success rates and post-procedural benefits. The recovery from laser ablation is minimal compared to surgical methods. However, proper planning after treatment is essential:

  • Arrange for someone to drive you home
  • Avoid strenuous exercise until the provider says it’s safe
  • Steer clear of flying in an airplane for two weeks
  • Get enough sleep to ensure healing
  • Move and walk frequently

How Effective is Endovenous Laser Treatment?

Endovenous thermal ablation is the recommended alternative to vein removal surgery because 98 percent of patients are symptom-free a year after treatment with improved quality of life. Most patients report that they wish they had the procedure done sooner.

Early ablation increases effectiveness. If the underlying problem is left untreated, varicose veins can worsen. Early detection and treatment help prevent dangerous complications:

  • Lower extremity swelling
  • Venous sores (ulcers)
  • Bleeding from varicose veins
  • Blood clots

Varicose veins are associated with a seven-fold increased risk of developing deep vein thrombosis (DVT), a life-threatening blood clot. Early treatment is vital!

How Long Does It Take for Varicose Veins to Disappear after Endovenous Laser Treatment?

The answer to this question depends on factors such as the extent of vein damage, overall health, and post-procedural compliance. Your vein doctor will discuss the recovery period you can expect. However, most vein specialists report that it generally takes one to three months for the unsightly veins and the bothersome symptoms to fade completely.

Most patients report very little pain as long as they frequently walk and use compression therapy.

Wearing compression stockings after the treatment is part of the post-procedural recommendations. Compression therapy provides gradient pressure to the feet, ankles, and legs. These elastic stockings support blood rerouting and circulation, which reduces swelling and discomfort. Soreness can persist for a few weeks, which can be relieved with over-the-counter pain medications and compression therapy.

Benefits of Endovenous Laser Treatment

Because providers seal the varicose vein rather than remove the damaged vein, endovenous laser treatment is not considered a surgical procedure. Instead, it is a minimally invasive procedure allowing you to quickly return to your everyday life.

When comparing laser ablation to vascular surgery, some apparent benefits of endovenous laser ablation stand out:

  • More comfortable
  • Less harsh side effects
  • Faster recovery time
  • Reduced cost
  • Impressive cosmetic results
  • Reduced risk of complications

How Long Does It Take to Recover from Endovenous Laser Ablation?

With laser ablation, patients typically require little to no recovery time. They often can return to their routine on the same days as the procedure. After laser ablation treatment, you may experience some mild symptoms:

Your provider will suggest a pain management protocol that is right for you. Post-procedural instructions will likely include these recommendations:

  • Elevate the leg to reduce tightness, swelling, and discomfort
  • Keep the incision clean and dry
  • Wear compression stockings
  • Walk frequently to promote blood circulation

Most people quickly return to their normal activities. However, if you have a strenuous job, plan for time off to ensure proper vascular healing. Short walks are recommended, but you shouldn’t be on your feet all day or lifting heavy items.

Your vein specialist will likely schedule a follow-up appointment in a week or less to confirm successful vein sealing and adequate blood flow.

When Should I Call a Vein Specialist after Varicose Vein Treatment?

As with any medical procedure, knowing when to call a medical expert is vital. During recovery, watch for signs that indicate you need immediate medical assistance. Go to the emergency room if you see the following symptoms:

  • Pain in your calf
  • Hurting in your leg that progressively intensifies
  • Abrupt increase in swelling
  • Reddening of skin
  • Numbness in calf, foot, or leg
  • Chest pain
  • Trouble breathing
  • Lightheadedness

These symptoms indicate a possible blood clot. A blood clot, especially deep vein thrombosis (DVT), is a medical emergency. Seek assistance immediately.

Final Thoughts: Treating Varicose Veins with Endovenous Laser Therapy

Vein disease is the cause of significant suffering. If varicose veins negatively impact your physical and psychological health, you don’t have to continue to suffer. Treatment modalities, like endovenous laser ablation, boast phenomenal results without all the harsh side effects.

With Center for Vein Restoration’s (CVR) commitment to clinical excellence, we continually improve and advance vein care throughout the United States. We are nationally recognized as the clinical leader in vein treatments due to our compassionate care, state-of-the-art modalities, and affordable treatment options. To learn more about how CVI can help relieve your suffering caused by vein disease, contact us at 240-965-3915 or schedule an appointment online.

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