THE QUESTION Though often thought of as an appearance or pain issue, varicose veins can cause serious blood circulation problems and may need to be treated through traditional surgery or laser treatment. Is one method better than the other?
THIS STUDY randomly assigned 346 adults (average age, 48) to have a varicose vein in a leg removed through surgery (called ligation and stripping) or closed by using laser energy (called ablation). Two years later, results from both methods were found to have been “comparably safe and effective,” but differences were noted. Varicose veins recurred in 23 percent of those who had conventional surgery and 16 percent of the laser treatment group. Blood pooling near a point where veins in the leg come together occurred more often among people who had had laser treatment (18 percent vs. 1 percent). Laser treatment was rated higher for cosmetic results. Recovery times were similar, with a resumption of basic activity after four to five days and a return to work after 10 to 12 days.
WHO MAY BE AFFECTED? People with chronic venous insufficiency. This usually develops because a valve that regulates the return of blood from the legs to the heart malfunctions and blood collects in the leg, enlarging the vein. Not all varicose veins require removal. Women develop varicose veins more often than men.
CAVEATS Different surgical techniques or laser treatment specifications might yield different results.
The research described in Quick Study comes from credible, peer-reviewed journals. Nonetheless, conclusive evidence about a treatment's effectiveness is rarely found in a single study. Anyone considering changing or beginning treatment of any kind should consult with a physician.