Aim: The innovations for disease management need to be thoroughly evaluated so that their benefits and potential downsides can be compared with the already existing approaches. Endovascular laser (EVL) treatment for varicose veins offers today several advantages over surgical standard stripping. The Italian Endovenous-laser Working Group (IEWG) is a homogeneous group of surgeons and phlebologists who have been using EVL since 1999 and has undertaken to examine EVL in a multicenter study starting from a well defined rationale, with the benefit of a single protocol to use.
Methods: In a cooperative, multicenter, clinical study, 1076 limbs in 1050 patients, mean age of 54.5 years, 241 males and 809 females affected by chronic venous insufficiency (CVI) were considered eligible for surgery and stratified by CEAP classification in a four-year period (January 1999 December 2003). Inclusion criteria were insufficiency of the great and/or small saphenous vein at various levels, beyond those accessory saphenous trunks with incompetence in the saphenofemoral junction. In all cases truncular reflux apparead up on duplex scan examination, with or without associated varicosities. All the patients underwent a surgery on the basis of the clinical assessment. All the centres involved performed treatment in conformity with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) validated procedure, using an endo-laser venous system kit with a 810-980 nm diode. Duplex scan was performed in all patients after 36 months with very few lost to follow-up cases.
Results: In the immediate postoperative period the results have been impressive, with a very effective closure of incompetent great saphenous vein and the other treated varicose veins (the early occlusion rate has been 99%). Major complications have not been detected: in particular, no deep venous thrombosis (DVT) evaluated duplex ultrasound. The patients' acceptability and satisfaction regarding the procedure, have been measured by means of a questionnaire on the quality of life, and the result was 96.7%. After 36 months, the total occusion rate of saphenous trunks has been 97%.
Conclusions: The first important Italian experience with EVL based on preoperative, perioperative and postoperative duplex control and which is also based on the patients' satisfaction at mid/long-term has indicated some advantages over the standard treatment with the stripping method. In terms of reduced postoperative pain, shorter sick leave, a faster resumption of the normal activities, and, in particular, the total absence of DVT, we can conclude that EVL is a good solution for all patients with anatomic and hemodinamic patterns for saphenous vein surgery.