Sclerotherapy vs. Endovenous Laser Ablation: A Side-by-Side Look

These are two of the most common treatments available at most vein clinics across the country. While they both work towards the same end of relieving venous conditions, there are distinct differences that you should be aware of.

You should discuss your condition with a vein specialist to determine if you have spider veins or varicose veins, and which, if either, of these conditions is right for you.

How each treatment is performed

Another difference between the two treatments is how they are administered.

Sclerotherapy is performed by injecting a chemical sclerant into problem veins. The sclerant irritates the vein wall, causing the vein to shrink, collapse and eventually fade away entirely. In foam sclerotherapy, the sclerant has a consistency similar to shaving cream, while other sclerotherapy procedures utilize a liquid sclerant. The foam formulation provides greater contact with the vein wall and displaces blood much more effectively than the liquid formulation. It is also easier to view through ultrasound technology.

Endovenous laser ablation is performed by inserting a laser fiber into the problem vein. The fiber is slowly heated using low energy, which causes the vein to heat and collapse. Both procedures require a topical anesthetic to ensure patient comfort throughout treatment.

These are minimally-invasive treatments that leave no scarring. While the general idea behind both treatments is to collapse problem veins, the way the procedures are performed differs. Interested patients are encouraged to discuss each procedure with a trained professional for more detailed descriptions of how each treatment is performed.

What you can expect in recovery

The recovery from each procedure is fairly similar. Neither procedure requires you to miss work, with many able to return to work or resume other normal daily activities after the procedure.

Compression stockings may be used following each procedure to aid in recovery and to promote healthy blood flow. You will be given specific recovery instructions from your doctor, and you're encouraged to follow their directions to ensure a safe recovery.

A follow up procedure may be scheduled in many cases to check the progress of treatment. Both treatments are also similar in that one session is all that is needed to reach optimal results in most cases.

Foam sclerotherapy may require multiple sessions, although most individuals are satisfied with their results after just one treatment.

In the end, the ultimate goal of both foam sclerotherapy and endovenous laser ablation is to eliminate problem veins.

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