Endovenous laser ablation versus conventional surgery in the treatment of small saphenous vein incompetence

J Vasc Surg Venous Lymphat Disord. 2013 Oct;1(4):357-63. doi: 10.1016/j.jvsv.2013.05.005. Epub 2013 Sep 4.


Introduction: In this multicenter, randomized controlled trial, endovenous laser ablation (EVLA) is compared with conventional surgery for the treatment of varicose veins based on incompetence of the small saphenous vein and the saphenopopliteal junction (SPJ).

Methods: In two Dutch hospitals, 189 patients were enrolled and randomized to receive EVLA (810-nm laser) or ligation of the SPJ. End points were success rate measured with duplex ultrasound (6 weeks post-treatment), perioperative pain, quality of life, duration of surgery, difficulty of surgery, complications, cosmetic results, and number of days to resume work and normal activities. Pain was measured on a visual analog scale (VAS). Quality of life was assessed using the Aberdeen Varicose Vein Questionnaire (AVVQ) and Euro Qol-5D. The follow-up duration in this article is 6 weeks.

Results: One hundred seventy-five patients have been treated and analyzed. One hundred eighteen patients (67%) underwent EVLA, and 57 patients (33%) underwent ligation of the SPJ. The patient characteristics were similar in both groups. In the surgery group, 21% residual incompetence of the SPJ was seen after 6 weeks, compared with 0.9% in the laser group. Both treatment modalities reduced pain after 6 weeks. One week post-treatment, patients in the EVLA group temporarily experienced more pain compared with the surgery group (31 vs 18 on a VAS from 0 to 100). There were no significant differences between the two groups with respect to quality of life. Both treatments did show improvement in quality of life. Also with regard to the cosmetics, there were no differences, aside from the fact that patients rated their scar as more beautiful after EVLA. After EVLA, patients could return to work more quickly. The operation time was longer in the surgery group. After 2 weeks, there were significantly more neurological complications in the surgery group: 18 (31%) vs 16 (17%) patients in the EVLA group. Ten percent of patients in the surgery group developed a surgical site infection vs 0% in the EVLA group.

Conclusions: EVLA provides an excellent alternative to conventional surgery in the treatment of symptomatic varicose veins due to an incompetent small saphenous vein with SPJ. EVLA has a superior immediate success rate, is easier and faster, and has fewer complications.