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Laser Therapy

What is Laser Therapy?

Endovenous laser therapy (EVLT) is a safe and simple varicose vein treatment that closes varicose veins without surgery.

With EVLT, a laser is threaded through a tiny incision and through the full length of the varicose vein. As the laser is slowly withdrawn, heat is applied to the vein walls, causing the vein to permanently close and disappear. The body then reroutes the blood to healthier veins. No other tissue in the legs is affected.

Patient satisfaction with endovenous laser therapy has been high. A prominent study published in the Journal of Vascular and Interventional Radiology showed better than a 93% success rate after two years. These results are comparable or superior to other methods for treating varicose veins, including surgery, with lower rates of complication and the avoidance of general anesthesia.

After having endovenous laser therapy, you may still have smaller varicose veins and spider veins. Sclerotherapy can be used to treat these, if desired.

Before After
Veins Before Veins After

What are some common uses of the procedure?

Varicose veins are not only a just a cosmetic problem. They can cause discomfort and pose significant health threats. Treatment can eliminate aching, throbbing, cramping, swelling and heaviness in the legs. It can also reduce the dangers of non-healing wounds and blood clots posed by varicose veins. Not everyone is a candidate for endovenous laser therapy. People who are candidates may choose it over a surgical varicose vein treatment for the following reasons:

  • Lower recurrence
  • No recovery period
  • Less painful
  • No scarring

How should I prepare for the procedure?

Following are the preparation guidelines for endovenous laser therapy. Please contact us at 614-279-1847 if you have any questions.

  • Have a light meal before arriving for the procedure.
  • Bring compression (medical) stockings with you.
  • If Valium was prescribed, bring it with you and arrange for someone to drive you home from the procedure.

What will I experience during and after the procedure?

When you come in for the procedure, a nurse will take your blood pressure and temperature. You will then change into your shorts. The radiologist may take photos of your legs to monitor the effectiveness of the treatment. You will be given goggles to protect your eyes from accidental exposure to the laser light during the procedure.

After answering any questions you have, a radiologist will begin the procedure. The access site for the procedure will be cleansed and anesthetized and the radiologist will make a small incision, about 2 millimeters wide.

Using ultrasound guidance, the radiologist will carefully thread a catheter through the incision and into the vein. After the catheter is in place, the laser will be advanced into the vein. Local anesthetic will be applied along the length of the vein to make the procedure virtually painless. The laser is activated and slowly removed, closing the vein as it is withdrawn.

The incision will be cleaned and taped. You will put the compression stockings on and change back into your normal clothes.

You will have a follow-up visit approximately a week after your session. The radiologist will perform an ultrasound to ensure the varicose vein has been completely closed and no blood clots have developed. He or she may take photos of your legs again to keep in your file.

There is no recovery after endovenous laser therapy. However, you will need to wear the compression stockings for two weeks. You must also avoid high impact aerobics for 2 weeks after the procedure.


What are the risks?

Endovenous laser therapy is a very safe procedure.

Potential but uncommon side effects include:

  • Damage to a blood vessel, bruising or bleeding at the puncture site, or infection (from catheter insertion).
  • Temporary numbness in the legs
  • Blood clot or inflammation in the vein
  • Insufficient closure of the varicose vein, requiring an additional treatment
  • Growth of new veins

Some people experience bruising, tenderness or swelling after the procedure. These side effects can be reduced or prevented by wearing the compression stockings as directed.

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Copyright © 2009 Radiological Society of North America, Inc. (RSNA)