Endovenous Laser Treatment (EVLT)
Endovenous laser ablation therapy, or EVLT, is a relatively new, minimally invasive treatment for varicose veins. The 40-minute outpatient procedure requires no hospital stay, causes minimal discomfort and involves minimal recovery time, but provides years of relief. During the last decade, breakthroughs have led to a more complete understanding of the cause of varicose veins, and this innovative new treatment has proven more effective than traditional surgical approaches and is much easier on patients.
Approximately 20% of adults develop varicose veins. Most are caused by a leaky saphenous vein in the thigh. Symptoms of varicose veins include heaviness and burning or aching in the legs, especially after standing or walking. Treating the vein with EVLT is effective because it causes the vein to shrink and close up, with blood safely re-routed to an adjacent vein. The vein is collapsed, symptoms diminish and appearance improves. The procedure leaves only a pinhole size scar. EVLT is effective because it addresses the source of the problem: leaky valves within the veins. The leg veins, which carry blood to the heart, have valves—flap-like tissue that keeps blood moving in the right direction. If a valve begins to leak, blood collects in that vein, which then stretches to produce varicose veins. Left untreated, incompetent veins may cause further circulatory problems or skin ulcers.
During EVLT, a local anesthetic is applied to the area. Once the leg is numb, the physician makes a small nick in the skin and, using ultrasound guidance, advances a thin, flexible laser fiber into the vein that has the leaky valve. The fiber emits the required laser energy needed to collapse the walls of the vein. Once the procedure is complete, the patient is sent home wearing a compression stocking. Patients experience minimal discomfort and are encouraged to walk and perform daily activities.
EVLT is a proven, effective treatment for symptomatic varicose veins, and most insurance plans cover the treatment. If you think you are a candidate for EVLT, you should talk to your primary care physician.
The diagnosis of varicose veins and recommendation for EVLT is made after an ultrasound exam to map and determine the extent of the varicose veins in consultation with a physician.