What is Endovenous Laser Treatment for Varicose Veins?
Endovenous laser treatment (EVLT) is used to close off a varicose vein as an alternative to surgery. A laser is a device that generates a beam of light, and doctors are able to use lasers to treat varicose veins. Heat from the laser forms scar tissue, which closes the vein. When the vein is closed, it no longer has a source of blood, and it begins to disappear. The vein typically disappears in one to two years.
Who Should Consider Endovenous Laser Treatment?
You might be a good candidate for EVLT if you experience symptoms from varicose veins. Some symptoms may include cramping, leg swelling, and skin discoloration. People receive the treatment to eliminate varicose veins, alleviate their symptoms, and minimize the risk of complications from possible vein diseases such as blood clots. The benefits of EVLT over surgery include less pain, no recovery period, lower complication rate, no anesthesia, and minimal scarring.
What Should I Expect Before EVLT?
Before the procedure, you will meet with an ultrasonographer, who will map out your veins with an ultrasound. The ultrasound gives doctors a detailed view of your vein system, and it shows the path of blood. Ultrasounds make the procedure safer and more effective.
Your doctor will give you specific instructions on how to prepare for the treatment. You should not eat or drink after midnight on the night prior to the procedure, and you should not use lotions on your leg. Wear loose clothing to your appointment. You will need someone to drive you home from the procedure.
What Should I Expect During and After the Procedure?
The EVLT procedure takes about an hour, and it is minimally invasive. There is no hospitalization or stitches required. Patients experience little to no pain during endovenous laser treatment.
During the Procedure
At your appointment, you will change into a gown and lie on an exam table. You might be given goggles to protect your eyes from the laser light. The doctor will place a laser fiber into the affected vein using a catheter. An ultrasound will guide the doctor to the vein. They will numb the surrounding area using a local anesthetic. Then, the doctor will activate the laser fiber, which creates the heat to close the vein. A bandage will be placed where the catheter was inserted.
After the Procedure
Right after the treatment, you will be able to walk and likely return to normal activities. The doctor will probably instruct you to walk for short intervals every day. You will wear compression stockings for one to two weeks following the procedure. You should avoid heavy physical treatment during this period. Additionally, it is possible to experience tenderness, swelling, or bruising after the procedure, but for most patients, any discomfort resolves quickly. An ice pack can help reduce swelling, and over-the-counter medications can help manage pain.
How Effective is Endovenous Laser Treatment?
EVLT is 94% effective, meaning it closes veins about 94% of the time. You will need a second treatment if the treatment does not close the vein. This may include another laser treatment or a variety of other available treatments.
What Are the Risks Associated with Laser Treatment?
Possible risks associated with EVLT are skin burns, nerve damage causing feelings of pain, blood clotting in the vein, and skin burns. Talk with your doctor about any concerns you have regarding risks. If you notice any signs of infection (redness, warmth, or leaking fluid) after the procedure, call your healthcare provider.