Varicose Vein Laser Treatment
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The vascular and interventional radiology (VIR) division of the departments of radiology at Rhode Island Hospital and Newport Hospital offer varicose vein treatment through a non-surgical laser technique called endovenous laser treatment, or EVLT. Under local anesthesia, a physician inserts a thin laser fiber into the vein through a very small entry point. The laser light seals the faulty vein.
EVLT can be done on an outpatient basis, and the entire procedure - which is virtually painless - takes about one hour. Most patients are able to resume normal activities immediately.
EVLT procedures are done by board-certified and credentialed radiologists who are specially trained in this procedure.
Causes of Varicose Veins
Varicose veins are caused by weakened valves and veins in the legs. One-way valves in veins function to keep blood flowing from the legs up toward the heart. When these valves malfunction, blood pools in the veins, causing an increased pressure that can make the veins bulge and twist.
Symptoms of Varicose Veins
- Leg symptoms such as pain, heaviness or tiredness, burning or tingling sensations
- Swelling or throbbing
- Tender areas around the affected veins
By age 50, up to 40 percent of women and 20 percent of men develop varicose veins, which can be painful, unsightly and potentially dangerous. Left untreated, varicose veins can cause serious conditions including inflammation or phlebitis, blood clots, hyperpigmentation, ankle sores or skin ulcers, and bleeding.
Common Questions About Endovenous Laser Treatment
- How does endovenous laser treatment (EVLT) work?
The laser energy damages the vein walls, shrinking them and closing the faulty vein so that the blood cannot flow through it. This eliminates vein bulging at its source.
- Is loss of this vein a problem?
No. After treatment, the blood in the faulty veins will be diverted to the many normal veins in the leg.
- What are the complications of this procedure?
The only minimal complications experienced with EVLT have been a small number of cases of numbness that passes quickly.
- Am I at risk from the laser?
No. Just as a precaution against accidental firing of laser energy outside the body, you will be given a pair of special glasses to protect your eyes.
- How successful is EVLT?
97% of first-time EVLT treatments are successful.
- Is it covered by insurance?
If it is determined in the initial consultation that this procedure is medically necessary, your health insurance plan may cover all or some of the costs. Please check with your insurer for details.
What to Expect
EVLT is a minimally invasive laser procedure that leaves no scar and can be performed in your doctor's office. The treatment takes less than one hour. Here's what to expect:
- Your doctor uses ultrasound to map your vein.
- Local anesthetic is applied.
- A thin laser fiber is inserted through a tiny entry point, usually near the knee.
- Laser energy is delivered to seal the faulty vein.
- Walking immediately after the procedure is encouraged. Normal daily activity can be resumed (just avoid rigorous activities, such as gym workouts).
- There may be minor soreness and bruising. Any discomfort can be treated with over-the-counter, non-aspirin pain relievers as needed.