Gone are the days when vein stripping was the standard treatment for painful, unsightly varicose veins. Patients who visit a vein center today have a number of options to eliminate these annoying blood vessels. One of them is endovenous laser treatment (EVLT).
What Exactly is EVLT?
It is a procedure that directs heat from a laser into varicose veins to destroy them. Johns Hopkins Medicine reports that this outpatient treatment is particularly effective on veins located on the calves or thighs.
A vein doctor might recommend EVLT when conservative treatments are not working and a patient requires elimination of troublesome vessels. According to the Stony Brook School of Medicine, about 40 percent of adults suffer from varicose veins. EVLT causes them to become scar tissue. The Radiological Society of North America, Inc. notes that professionals consider it a safe procedure—one far less invasive than surgery and one that leaves no outward scars.
What to Expect at the Vein Center
At an initial consultation, a vein specialist performs a physical exam and explores the patient’s medical history. It might be necessary to perform some diagnostic tests in order to determine the full extent of the individual’s vein disease issues. Once a patient has been approved for the procedure, the clinic will issue instructions to follow before the appointment.
Upon arrival at the center, a patient changes into a hospital gown. During the procedure, the staff tilts the table on which the individual lies into various positions. Some facilities issue special glasses or goggles to protect the patient’s eyes from the light from the laser.
To reduce discomfort, specialists numb the area where the physician will insert a catheter into a targeted vein and inject a numbing substance along the abnormal vessel. The use of Doppler ultrasound technology helps the physician check the condition of the vessel both before the procedure and as it progresses.
The vein doctor makes a small incision in the skin to insert a catheter, then inserts a laser fiber into this catheter. As the specialist withdraws the catheter slowly from the vein, the laser heats the vessel, causing it to close and eventually fade. This minimally invasive procedure typically takes less than an hour to perform.
The clinic staff will help patients start walking soon after EVLT. Any bruising from the procedure disappears in around two weeks. Discharge instructions usually advise wearing compression stockings for a certain period and specify activities to avoid, such as prolonged standing and hot baths for up to two weeks.
Although EVLT is a highly effective therapy, like other varicose vein treatments, it cannot prevent the formation of new abnormal vessels. For this reason, patients might find it necessary to return for additional sessions or other types of varicose vein treatment in the future.