Background: Endovenous laser (EVL) ablation of the great saphenous vein (GSV) is thought to minimize postoperative morbidity and reduce work loss compared with high ligation and stripping (HL/S). However, the procedures have not previously been compared in a randomized trial with parallel groups where both treatments were performed in tumescent anesthesia on an out-patient basis.
Methods: Patients with varicose veins due to GSV insufficiency were randomized to either EVL (980 nm) or HL/S in tumescent anesthesia. Miniphlebectomies were also performed. Patients were examined preoperatively and at 12 days, and 1, 3, and 6 months postoperatively. Sick leave, time to normal physical activity, pain score, use of analgesics, Aberdeen score, Medical Outcomes Study Short Form-36 quality-of-life score, Venous Clinical Severity Score (VCSS), and complication rates were investigated. The total cost of the procedures, including lost wages and equipment, was calculated. Cost calculations were based on the standard fee for HL/S with the addition of laser equipment and the standard salary and productivity level in Denmark.
Results: A follow-up of 6 months was achieved in 121 patients (137 legs). The groups were well matched for patient and GSV characteristics. Two HL/S procedures failed, and three GSVs recanalized in the EVL group. The groups experienced similar improvement in quality-of-life scores and VCSS score at 3 months. Only one patient in the HL/S group had a major complication, a wound infection that was treated successfully with antibiotics. The HL/S and EVL groups did not differ in mean time to resume normal physical activity (7.7 vs 6.9 calendar days) and work (7.6 vs 7.0 calendar days). Postoperative pain and bruising was higher in the HL/S group, but no difference in the use of analgesics was recorded. The total cost of the procedures, including lost wages, was euro 3084 ($3948 US) in the HL/S and euro 3396 ($4347 US) in the EVL group.
Conclusions: This study suggests that the short-term efficacy and safety of EVL and HL/S are similar. Except for slightly increased postoperative pain and bruising in the HL/S group, no differences were found between the two treatment modalities. The treatments were equally safe and efficient in eliminating GSV reflux, alleviating symptoms and signs of GSV varicosities, and improving quality of life. Long-term outcomes, particularly with respect to recurrence rates, shall be investigated in future studies, including the continuation of the present.