Laser first emerged as a technology for use in the vascular arena nearly 20 years ago. The ability of laser to evaporate atherosclerotic plaque was extensively studied; however, the goal of creation of an adequate channel without arterial wall perforation proved to be elusive, and the technique fell into disfavor. More than a decade later, interest in lasers was sparked again with its application to endovenous thermal ablation of axial superficial venous reflux. The mechanism of action of endovenous laser therapy involves thermal damage of the vein wall, resulting in destruction of the intima and collagen denaturation of the media with eventual fibrotic occlusion of the vein. Apart from the obvious attraction of a minimally invasive procedure to ablate superficial venous reflux with its attendant benefits, another advantage of laser ablation includes a potentially decreased incidence of neovascularization in the groin secondary to preservation of superficial venous drainage of the abdominal wall. Early success in terms of ablation of the refluxing saphenous vein has been reported as 90% to 95%. Minor complications are reported in 3% to 10% of patients and include bruising around the puncture site, transient paresthesias, superficial phlebitis, and skin burns or pigmentation. The more serious complications of deep venous thrombosis or extension of thrombus into the femoral vein have been variously reported in 0% to 2.3% of limbs treated. Pulmonary embolism is extremely rare. There is a learning curve, with a decrease in the incidence of all complications with experience. The importance of detailed preoperative and intraoperative duplex ultrasound examination cannot be overemphasized. The identification of all refluxing venous segments and their ablation is the key to optimizing the rate of successful ablation to 97% at 1 year and minimizing recurrence of varicose veins. With encouraging early and mid-term results with endovenous laser therapy, future developments in this field must mandate standardization of technical aspects, follow-up imaging, and reporting.
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