Health Info & Resources for Seniors
"A minor surgical procedure that uses laser energy to treat varicose veins lessens pain, discomfort, and the blue or purple lines on the legs, ankles, and feet," says St. Luke’s vascular surgeon, Calogero DiMaggio, DO.
Endovenous Laser Treatment (EVLT) is an ultrasound-guided treatment that precisely delivers heat energy into malfunctioning veins, causing them to collapse, explains Dr. DiMaggio of The Vascular Center. Once closed, the blood naturally flows to healthier veins.
Varicose veins are caused by weak or damaged valves that allow blood to leak backward and eventually flow in the opposite direction. Blood can pool in the veins, causing them to become enlarged and swollen.
Varicose veins are more than just a cosmetic problem, Dr. DiMaggio adds. They can also ache, swell, throb, cramp, itch, and feel heavy, especially after exercise or at night. “One of my patients described the effect of her varicose veins as having two large tree trunks for legs,” he says.
Fortunately, Dr. DiMaggio has found EVLT to be an excellent treatment for patients of all ages. Although varicose veins are more common among older people, especially women, young people can have them, too.
“One of my patients with varicose veins is in her early 30s,” he says. “She is a mother of three young children and has a very busy schedule. By the end of the day, her legs were throbbing and heavy. A week after she had the EVLT procedure, she and her family went to Disney World and he felt like a million bucks.”
At St. Luke’s, EVLT is performed in the operating room under general anesthesia. The surgeon inserts a small optic fiber through the varicose vein under ultrasound guidance. Then, the laser is activated and delivers heat energy to the vein, closing it off. Eventually, the body absorbs the vein. Usually, the procedure is done in the morning and the patient is discharged in the afternoon. Dr. DiMaggio recommends light walking the day of the surgery to get the blood flowing.
“Typically, patients come in on a Friday and return the next Monday or Tuesday,” Dr. DiMaggio says. “At the follow-up visit, we remove the bandages and do an ultrasound to ensure there are no blood clots.
Depending on their job, patients can usually return to work in two to five days.” Dr. DiMaggio encourages individuals with varicose veins to seek treatment particularly if they are painful and bulging. In rare cases, complications of varicose veins can include:
painful ulcers that form on the skin near the veins, especially near the ankles.
blood clots that develop within the vein that can break off and travel to the lungs.
bleeding when veins very close to the skin burst.
Patients with severe varicose veins who receive EVLT may experience some scarring, he says, but are impressed by the improvements in the way their legs both look and feel.
“Despite the small amount of scarring, patients who have unsightly and painful veins are very pleased with the results,” Dr. DiMaggio adds.