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What are the Pros and Cons of Laser Ablation for Varicose Veins?

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  • Written By: L. Whitaker
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 25 August 2016
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Laser ablation for varicose veins is a procedure also known as endovenous laser ablation. Like any medical procedure, this treatment can have potential benefits as well as possible negative effects. Laser ablation can help reduce or eliminate symptoms of varicose veins, and the procedure is a minimally invasive treatment with no sutures or scarring in the skin. There are potential risks associated with endovenous ablation, including bruising or discoloration of the skin and slight risk of infection or blood clots. Individuals who undergo this procedure must comply with limitations following the treatment, including no air travel for at least one week.

Varicose veins are also known as a condition called venous insufficiency. Leaky valves in the affected veins cause blood to pool in certain areas, resulting in veins that are visually enlarged, discolored, and sometimes painful. Endovenous laser ablation is a medical procedure in which the heat from a laser inserted into the vein causes the vein to collapse without injuring the skin. The laser is inserted using a thin catheter. Once the vein is ablated, scarring prevents blood from re-entering the collapsed vein.

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Endovenous laser ablation for varicose veins has many potential benefits. This procedure generally ameliorates symptoms such as swelling, aching, and inflammation without causing external harm to the skin. It is a minimally invasive treatment that is frequently done in an outpatient office visit, allowing the individual to return to normal activity quickly. Patients will be required to wear a compression bandage for 72 hours and avoid certain activities for several days, including air travel, hot baths, and heavy lifting. Laser ablation for varicose veins is generally thought to be an appropriate procedure for treating small veins.

Laser ablation has potential hazards. Some possible side effects include discoloration, bruising, or blistering of the treatment area. There is a rare risk of blood clots that could lead to a pulmonary embolism, as well as a risk of infection. Laser ablation for varicose veins is not considered appropriate for pregnant women, those with severely twisted varicose veins, or any individual who is in poor overall health or is bedridden. This procedure is considered to be somewhat less effective with certain kinds of varicose veins than an alternate procedure called sclerotherapy.

In addition to laser ablation for varicose veins, other types of treatment are available depending on surgeon recommendations. Ambulatory phlebectomy uses a series of skin punctures to remove larger veins in the leg. Coil embolization involves injecting alcohol into a vein to cause scarring and collapse. Sclerotherapy and microsclerotherapy also involve injecting a solution into the veins. The traditional treatment for varicose veins has been a procedure called surgical vein stripping, or the removal of a vein through multiple surgical incisions in the leg.

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