Foam injections to treat varicose veins cause less pain for patients and could save National Health Scheme (NHS) money compared with a popular alternative treatment, according to researchers at Imperial College London.
The study found that foam therapy was over four times more cost-effective than laser treatment and allowed patients to resume normal activity sooner. The findings were presented today at the annual meeting of the European Vascular Society in Athens.
Varicose veins develop when the valves in veins stop working properly, causing the veins to swell. About one in three people have varicose veins when they reach retiring age, with women affected more than men. In most people, they do not present a serious health problem, but in severe cases they can cause aching, itching, swelling or leg ulcers.
Patients requiring treatment often undergo surgery to strip out the affected vein. Under general anaesthetic, the vein is tied off through a cut in the groin and pulled out by a wire passed through a cut lower in the leg. 36,209 varicose vein procedures are carried out in the NHS each year.
In the last decade, new non-surgical treatments have been introduced that cause less scarring and do not require general anaesthetic.
Endovenous Laser Ablation (EVLA) involves a laser wire, inserted into the vein through a catheter, which delivers short bursts of energy that seal the vein closed. It is usually carried out under local anaesthesia. Foam sclerotherapy involves injecting foam into the vein that inflames the lining of the wall and seals the vessel.