Although some mild forms of varicose veins such as spider veins tend to pose only a cosmetic issue to some, varicose veins can quickly turn serious and cause a lot of pain and discomfort. In addition to causing circulatory problems, varicose veins do cause muscle cramps, skin ulcers, and bleeding.
Whether it was for cosmetic reasons or because the intense pain, people suffering from varicose veins have had to undergo vein stripping or litigation. This is a surgical technique that involves removing (stripping) the veins from the thighs or legs.
Litigation is a surgical process that involves tying the greater saphenous vein off while stripping, as earlier mentioned, involves removing this vein via incisions behind the knee or in the groin area. The removal or tying of the vein is done with the aim of reducing the pressure of blood that flows through the greater saphenous vein backward into the tiny veins that feed it.
Varicose vein surgery has to be done under general anaesthesia. However, it is a procedure that carries risks such as heavy bleeding, allergic reactions to the anaesthesia, scarring or bruising, blood clots, nerve injury, and infection to the incision site.
The procedure typically takes around 90 minutes even though some cases may take longer. The average recovery period is about four weeks although this may vary depending on the location and number of veins operated on.
Over the past few years, however, surgical stripping and litigation of veins have been done less frequently. This is because of a new form of treatment that does not involve surgery. The treatment is known as Endovenous Laser Therapy (ELVT).
This treatment utilises ultrasound in guiding an optical fibre into the affected vein. Once located, a highly concentrated laser beam is targeted at the walls of the vein causing them to collapse and close up.
During ELVT treatment, a patient is usually conscious but under a mild sedative to help them relax while the leg is put under local anaesthesia. The effectiveness of laser therapy lies in its ability to accurately target the sick vein and destroy it without affecting the neighbouring tissue.
This non-invasive out-patient treatment usually takes an hour. Additionally, it has a shorter recovery time than vein stripping while also being less costly.
What exactly is Endovenous Laser Therapy?
EVLT is the modern method of varicose vein treatment that does not entail surgery. As such, rather than removing or tying up the malfunctioning vein, a laser is used to heat up the vein. The heat from the laser destroys the veins’ walls after which your body proceeds to naturally absorb the dead tissue. That is how the sick veins are eliminated. The procedure does not need an operating theatre; a simple treatment room will suffice.
Who is the ideal candidate for laser treatment?
Ideally, anyone who has varicose veins is suitable for EVLT. The only exception is patients that have recurrent varicose vein after a previous surgery. In this case, foam Sclerotherapy is the ideal treatment option.
What does EVLT involve?
Your doctor will first perform an ultrasound scan on your leg and then use a pen to mark the identified veins that need to be treated. Thus, depending on the location of your varicose veins, you will either be lying on your front or on your back. Nevertheless, you will be guided through these steps during the scanning process.
Note that endovenous implies ‘inside the vein.’ As such, your physician will have to get inside the sick vein. To do this, a local aesthetic shall first have to be injected over the area to be treated. Next, a needle will be inserted into the vein and then a wire passed through this needle and into the vein.
The needle is then removed and a thin plastic tubing known as a catheter is passed over the wire and into the vein. The wire is then removed.
The laser fiber is inserted into the catheter with its tip lying over the area to be treated. The vein is then pricked multiple times using a tiny needle to inject the local aesthetic solution. Both you and the doctor shall wear laser safety goggles as a precaution. The laser is now switched on and is targeted at the vein for close to five minutes. You might taste or smell burning but you will be in no pain. If both legs have varicose veins, the process will be repeated on the other leg. The catheter and laser are then removed and a small dressing applied to cover the needle puncture.
EVLT treatment typically takes around 20 or 30 minutes for each leg.
As soon as the EVLT procedure is done, you will be free to go home. However, it is recommended that you arrange for someone to take you home as driving yourself is not advisable. The doctor shall also instruct you to wear compression stockings for about two weeks in addition to advising you on how to bathe. Nevertheless, you can get back to work immediately as well as resuming most of your daily activities.
Note that you are not allowed to swim or make your legs wet during the entire period you will have stockings on. Most patients report a mild pain around the treated area for about five days after the laser treatment. Nonetheless, ibuprofen and other anti-inflammatory drugs will alleviate these symptoms.
The laser used will depend on the company that manufactures it even though they are all functionally identical.
Will you need further treatment?
This depends on your reason for undergoing the procedure. If you just needed to relieve yourself off of the symptoms of varicose veins, you are unlikely to need further treatment. However, if you want to improve the appearance of the veins, you may need additional procedures. This is because even though EVLT does kill the bad veins, there are usually telltale signs left behind.
To eliminate them, you might need to undergo a procedure known as foam Sclerotherapy. This treatment will improve the appearance of your veins.
The main reason as to why laser treatment has replaced surgery is because it is not as invasive as the latter. Even though surgery did help in treating varicose veins, it had to involve a significant incision that resulted in the formation of a permanent scar. Additionally, surgical methods of treating varicose veins are marred by negative factors such as prolonged recovery, possible surgical complications such as bleeding and infections, and having to be put under general anaesthesia.
Laser treatment for varicose veins is faster, leaves minimal to no traces, has a quick recovery time, is not painful, and is less costly. This is what gives laser techniques an edge over surgical procedures; they are both effective as well as efficient. Surgery, nevertheless, is only an option if you have an extreme case of varicose veins.
Considering laser treatment for your varicose or spider veins? You have to ensure that a not only highly-qualified physician only treats you, but also a reputable one to ensure your procedure is a success. Located in Chester, Cheshire, Veins Solutions is the leading vein treatment centre in the country. Our team of highly-skilled specialists is more than capable of serving your needs. Schedule for a consultation to learn more about our services.
Related Articles on Endovenous Laser Treatment
- Endovenous Laser Treatment Aftercare
- Endovenous Laser Treatment FAQs
- What to Expect from Endovenous Laser Treatment
- NICE Guidelines to Varicose Veins Management
- Veinwave Treatment FAQs
- What is a Endovenous Laser Treatment of Varicose Veins