Poof, they're gone! Treatment zaps varicose veins with laser

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Madeline's severe varicose veins weren't terribly painful, she said. "Just somewhat. Mostly, they just looked scary — thick and twisting, like a roadmap. My husband says they looked like the Amazon! I always wore pants or long dresses. I got varicose veins when I had my two kids — they're now adults."

Eager to have the veins taken care of, the Scottsdale resident had to wait for Medicare to kick in. Now 67, she visited Imad Khaled, MD, who's part of the HonorHealth Heart Group at the Shea location.

He said varicose veins can be caused by such factors as:

  • Genetics.
  • Standing for long periods of time.
  • Hormones.
  • Pregnancy.

You can suffer from severe aching, pulling, cramps and swelling due to varicose veins. Elevating the legs and compression stockings can help relieve symptoms.

Treatment zaps varicose veins with laser
Treatment zaps varicose veins with laser

When Dr. Khaled examined Madeline's legs, he saw that the great saphenous vein running from the groin to the big toe in her right leg was quite dilated with a reflux of more than one second. That qualified her for EVLT — endovenous laser treatment to eliminate the vein.

EVLT barbecues the vein

After using lidocaine to numb the area, he inserted a thin laser fiber through a needle into the damaged vein. Under ultrasound guidance, images of the vein appeared on a screen. A laser light emitted through the thin fiber as it's pulled back through the vein delivers an exact amount of energy. The tissue in the vein reacts with the light energy, closes and seals shut.

To speak with a vascular coordinator, please call 480-882-6775.

"The laser fires the vein with energy — in a way, it barbecues it," Dr. Khaled said. After the 45-minute procedure, Madeline put on a compression stocking. Her instructions were to wear it for 14 days and to walk every 15 minutes, except while sleeping. "The vein turns white and dies; over 1 ½ months, the body will absorb it. Within three months, all the spider veins nearby vanish, too," Dr. Khaled said. The patient can take a shower after 48 hours.

"The pain was a 2 out of 10 during the procedure, not bad at all," Madeline said. "Dr. Khaled was extremely careful and thorough." She did get phlebitis, inflammation of the vein, while healing, but was able to treat it with heat and massage.

Would she do it again? "Absolutely. My right leg is completely clear now," she said.

She most recently received treatment on her left leg. "We'll do a follow-up on it to get rid of all of the vein," Dr. Khaled said. "It's not uncommon to need to do that."

Less serious varicose veins can be treated with sclerotherapy. The doctor injects a salt solution into the vein through a very fine needle. The vein collapses, the blood inside it clots, and over time, the vein turns into scar tissue and fades away.