Randomized clinical trial of ultrasound-guided foam sclerotherapy versus surgery for the incompetent great saphenous vein

Br J Surg. 2012 Aug;99(8):1062-70. doi: 10.1002/bjs.8781. Epub 2012 May 25.


Background: New minimally invasive treatment modalities, such as ultrasound-guided foam sclerotherapy (UGFS), are becoming more popular. In a multicentre randomized controlled non-inferiority trial, the effectiveness and costs of UGFS and surgery for treatment of the incompetent great saphenous vein (GSV) were compared.

Methods: Patients with primary great saphenous varicose veins were assigned randomly to either UGFS or surgical stripping with high ligation. Recurrence, defined as reflux combined with venous symptoms, was determined on colour duplex scans at baseline, 3 months, 1 year and 2 years after initial treatment. Secondary outcomes were presence of recurrent reflux (irrespective of symptoms), reduction of symptoms, health-related quality of life (EQ-5D(™)), adverse events and direct hospital costs.

Results: Two hundred and thirty patients were treated by UGFS and 200 underwent GSV stripping. The 2-year probability of recurrence was similar in the UGFS and surgery groups: 11·3 per cent (24 of 213) and 9·0 per cent (16 of 177) respectively (P = 0·407). At 2 years, reflux irrespective of venous symptoms was significantly more frequent in the UGFS group (35·0 per cent) than in the surgery group (21·0 per cent) (P = 0·003). Mean(s.d.) hospital costs per patient over 2 years were €774(344) per patient for UGFS and €1824(141) for stripping.

Conclusion: At 2-year follow-up, UGFS was not inferior to surgery when reflux associated with venous symptoms was the clinical outcome of interest. UGFS has the potential to be a cost-effective approach to a common health problem. Registration numbers: NCT01103258 (http://www.clinicaltrials.gov) and NTR654 (http://www.trialregister.nl).

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Multicenter Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Ambulatory Surgical Procedures / economics
  • Costs and Cost Analysis
  • Female
  • Hospital Costs
  • Humans
  • Injections, Intravenous
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Polidocanol
  • Polyethylene Glycols / administration & dosage
  • Polyethylene Glycols / economics
  • Recurrence
  • Retreatment / economics
  • Saphenous Vein / surgery*
  • Sclerosing Solutions / administration & dosage*
  • Sclerosing Solutions / economics
  • Sclerotherapy / economics
  • Sclerotherapy / methods*
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Ultrasonography, Interventional / economics
  • Ultrasonography, Interventional / methods
  • Varicose Veins / economics
  • Varicose Veins / therapy*
  • Venous Insufficiency / economics
  • Venous Insufficiency / therapy


  • Sclerosing Solutions
  • Polidocanol
  • Polyethylene Glycols

Associated data

  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT01103258