What is Endovenous Laser Ablation of the Saphenous Vein?
Endovenous laser ablation, also known as endovenous thermal ablation, is a minimally invasive surgical technique that uses high-frequency radio waves or laser energy to treat varicose saphenous veins. The saphenous vein is a large superficial vein that helps to transport deoxygenated blood from the leg back to the heart and lungs. Damage to the one-way valves within the saphenous vein leads to the backflow and pooling of blood within the vein which can result in swollen and painful varicose veins.
Indications of Endovenous Laser Ablation of the Saphenous Vein
Endovenous laser ablation is mainly indicated for:
- Sore or painful varicose veins
- Irritation of the skin over the veins
- Cosmetic reasons
Preparation for Endovenous Laser Ablation of the Saphenous Vein
Your doctor will review your medical history and symptoms and based on this a physical examination will be performed. Preparation for the procedure will include the following:
- Inform your doctor if you are taking any blood-thinning medications or supplements and if you have any allergies.
- Refrain from alcohol and tobacco at least a few days before surgery and several weeks after, as it can delay the healing process.
- Arrange for someone to drive you home after surgery.
- Written consent will be obtained from you after the procedure has been explained in detail.
Procedure for Endovenous Laser Ablation of the Saphenous Vein
The procedure for endovenous laser ablation will usually take about 1 hour and you can go home the same day. It involves the following steps:
- Your doctor will instruct you to lie down on the procedure table in a suitable position to easily access the vein that is being treated.
- An imaging technique, such as a doppler ultrasound, will be used to guide the procedure.
- The area to be treated will be numbed using local anesthesia to reduce any discomfort and keep you comfortable.
- Once the skin is numb, a small incision will be made on the skin and a catheter will be inserted into the vein.
- A catheter containing a laser heat source or laser fiber will be placed inside the affected vein.
- Prior to the ablation of the saphenous vein, an injection of local anesthesia will be administered along the length of the vein.
- Once the catheter is placed in its position, the laser fiber transfers energy to the walls of the damaged vein to close up the lumen and prevent blood flow through the vein.
- The catheter is then be removed and the puncture hole is covered with a small dressing.
- The ablated vein eventually shrinks away and blood returned to the heart through other healthy veins.
Post-operative Care and Recovery after Endovenous Laser Ablation of the Saphenous Vein
Post-operative care and recovery after endovenous laser ablation of the saphenous vein include:
- Your doctor will instruct you to start walking immediately after the procedure.
- Apply ice for 15 minutes for a few days to reduce swelling and bruising.
- Your doctor will prescribe pain-relieving medications.
- Avoid sitting or standing for long durations. You should keep active, but avoid strenuous activity for a few weeks or until cleared by your doctor.
- Wear compression stockings for a few days to avoid swelling and blood clotting.
- Regularly check on the incision site and keep it clean and dry to avoid any infection.
Risks and Complications of Endovenous Laser Ablation of the Saphenous Vein
Some of the common risks and complications of endovenous laser ablation of the saphenous vein include:
- Nerve damage
- Blood clots
- Changes in skin color
- Burning sensation
- Pulmonary embolism