These days, traditional, invasive surgeries for varicose veins have been replaced by non-invasive, needle-based treatments that don’t require any incisions or general anaesthetics. In fact, they’re outpatient procedures that can be performed in the clinic. Here are three minimally-invasive varicose vein treatments to consider.
Endovenous thermal ablation (ETA)
ETA is a technique where heat is used to cauterise and close the varicose veins. A one-time outpatient procedure under local anaesthesia, ETA involves inserting a laser wire (EVLT) or radio frequency catheter (RFA) into the vein to deliver heat, thus shrinking the varicose veins.
According to general and vascular surgeon, Dr John Tan, this is the best treatment for varicose veins as it eliminates all the veins without any surgery, general anaesthesia or hospitalisation. In fact, the patient can walk immediately after the procedure. There are no visible scars once the needle marks have healed.
VenaSeal is a non-heat-based treatment promises less post-procedural bruising and minimal risk of nerve injury. According to Dr Tan, this non-surgical method quickly and effectively closes varicose veins by coating and sealing them with a medical “superglue” that’s introduced through a tiny catheter. Once the diseased vein is sealed, blood is redirected through other healthy veins in the leg.
Ultrasound-guided foam sclerotherapy
This is another non-surgical, minimally invasive option. A strong chemical in the form of foam is injected into varicose veins to close and, ultimately, eliminate the veins. The procedure uses the same chemical as liquid injection sclerotherapy (used for spider veins). However, in its foamy state, the chemical does not get diluted by the blood and is able to stay in the vein longer. This makes it far more effective in closing the veins, explains Dr Tan.
“The use of ultrasound imaging helps treat those deep veins not visible to the naked eye, and guides the needle into the vein for better accuracy,” he says. “As the fine needle is not much bigger than an acupuncture needle, there is no pain. Therefore, no anaesthesia is required.”
In addition, the procedure is often the preferred choice for treating remnant veins left behind after a successful endovenous ablation. It’s also used in cases of recurrence, where varicose veins are tortuous and not remedied by endovenous ablation techniques.
While ultrasound-guided foam sclerotherapy is attractive because it’s more affordable and non-invasive, Dr Tan says there is a down-side: it requires many treatment sessions and it has a very high recurrence rate.
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