Economic and outcomes-based analysis of the care of symptomatic varicose veins

J Surg Res. 2011 Jun 1;168(1):5-8. doi: 10.1016/j.jss.2010.12.027. Epub 2011 Jan 13.


Objective: Endoluminal treatment of symptomatic varicose veins (VV) reduces or eliminates inpatient hospital stays, lowers complication rates, and increases revenue for vein care centers adopting the technique. This study compares the outcomes and economics of two treatments for VV.

Methods: Since May 2007, endovenous radiofrequency ablation (RFA) of symptomatic VV has been performed at our institution. For outcome measurements, a cohort of 100 RFA procedures (26% CEAP class C5 and C6) was compared with 100 open greater or lesser saphenous stripping and ligation procedures (SL, 18% C5 and C6). Procedures were performed between August 2002 and October 2007. The time frame was chosen to allow for a 6-mo follow-up. Patients who had adjunctive removal of secondary varicosities were included in both cohorts. Cost estimates are based on the actual total direct costs derived from the hospital's charge sheets for 20 of the 100 patients in each of the cohorts (n = 40). The actual direct costs are based on 2009-dollar values and do not include the surgeons' professional fees.

Results: Seventy-nine percent of the RFA therapies were performed in an outpatient clinic treatment room with the remaining 21% performed in an operating room (OR). For the SL group, all procedures were performed in the OR with 68% of patients requiring at least one night of hospital stay (average length of stay 1.2 d). The estimated direct cost of performing RFA in the treatment room was $906. This was considerably less than the estimated $4241 total direct cost for open SL followed by in-hospital observation. Outpatient open SL cost $2622, which is only slightly more than the $2533 cost for outpatient RFA performed in the OR. The use of RFA was associated with an earlier return to normal leisure activities (3.3 d versus 26 d, P < 0.05), fewer total hospital nights (3 d versus 82 d, P < 0.05), and less use of general anesthesia (16% versus 95%, P < 0.05). There were no major complications in the RFA group compared with three major complications in the SL group.

Conclusions: With the introduction of endovenous techniques at our institution, there has been a significant increase in the volume of patients seeking this less invasive treatment modality. This is due largely to the ease and comfort with which patients can now be treated as well as the reduced length of stay, reduction of general anesthetic use, and the speed at which they can return to normal activities. We recommend endovenous ablation techniques as both cost-saving and patient-preferred.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Anesthesia, General / economics
  • Anesthesia, General / statistics & numerical data
  • Catheter Ablation / economics*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Health Care Costs / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Length of Stay / economics
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Outcome Assessment, Health Care / statistics & numerical data*
  • Patient Preference
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Saphenous Vein / surgery
  • Sclerotherapy / economics*
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Varicose Veins / economics*
  • Varicose Veins / therapy*