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What are the risks of laser treatment for varicose veins?

I am considering laser treatment for my varicose veins, but I am considered about potential side effects, especially burns. What are the risks with laser treatment and how frequently does burning occur?


Doctors Answers (7)

Lasers have changed the treatment of varicose veins from surgical stripping procedures used over 10 years ago, to an office procedure with an immediate return to normal activities. The risks of burns from the tip of the fiber at the insertion site or areas within 10mm of the surface that are due to not having sufficient tumescent fluid are possible and very rare. They are also operator dependent so a well-established vein clinic may be the best choice for this procedure. In nine years of practice in our vein clinic we have not seen a single burn from laser treatments of varicose veins.

I have done thousands of laser treatments over the past 13 years and never burned anyone ever. It is not very common. I have only seen it with VNUS closure and radiofrequency devices.

We have not had a single laser burn in the 12 years we have been performing thermal ablation. Laser burns occur only when too much energy is delivered to a vein which is too close to the skin. Duplex ultrasound shows the depth of each vein and guides the treatment. So, to answer your question, laser burns do not occur if the procedure is done properly by an experienced practitioner. Surface veins cannot be treated by endovenous laser for that reason and require alternative treatment methods (phlebectomy or sclerotherapy

Endovenous laser ablation is a very safe and effective treatment. Complications usually occur in less than one percent of patients, and most often are temporary. Potential risks include bleeding, infection, skin burn, blood clot, nerve damage and darkening of the skin. The latter two usually resolve without further treatment. As for skin burn, while it has been reported, I have yet to see it happen after treating thousands of patients.

When performed appropriately, laser is safe and there is usually very little discomfort. Many patients return to work the same day.

Most common risk to any type of vein ablation would be a blood clot. Patients do have bruising and discomfort after laser treatment. As long as the vein that is being treated with laser is not too superficial burning would be very unlikely. I would recommend having treatment with a vascular surgeon who has done a large volume of laser treatments. Other options include radiofrequency closure (Venefit, aka VNUS) and Clarivein. Venefit causes a lot less bruising and discomfort than laser and Clarivein would not have a risk of burning of the skin at all.

If you choose an experienced vascular surgeon who specializes in treating varicose veins and has done many of these procedures, the risks are very low. Burning should never happen. The most inconvenience you should experience is a little localized inflammation in the thigh area and possibly a little bruising.

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