Endovenous laser ablation and ultrasound-guided foam sclerotherapy are recommended alternatives to surgery for the treatment of primary varicose veins, but their long-term comparative effectiveness remains uncertain.
In a randomized, controlled trial involving 798 participants with primary varicose veins at 11 centers in the United Kingdom, we compared the outcomes of laser ablation, foam sclerotherapy, and surgery. Primary outcomes at 5 years were disease-specific quality of life and generic quality of life, as well as cost-effectiveness based on models of expected costs and quality-adjusted life-years (QALYs) gained that used data on participants' treatment costs and scores on the EuroQol EQ-5D questionnaire.
Quality-of-life questionnaires were completed by 595 (75%) of the 798 trial participants. After adjustment for baseline scores and other covariates, scores on the Aberdeen Varicose Vein Questionnaire (on which scores range from 0 to 100, with lower scores indicating a better quality of life) were lower among patients who underwent laser ablation or surgery than among those who underwent foam sclerotherapy (effect size [adjusted differences between groups] for laser ablation vs. foam sclerotherapy, −2.86; 95% confidence interval [CI], −4.49 to −1.22; P<0.001; and for surgery vs. foam sclerotherapy, −2.60; 95% CI, −3.99 to −1.22; P<0.001). Generic quality-of-life measures did not differ among treatment groups. At a threshold willingness-to-pay ratio of £20,000 ($28,433 in U.S. dollars) per QALY, 77.2% of the cost-effectiveness model iterations favored laser ablation. In a two-way comparison between foam sclerotherapy and surgery, 54.5% of the model iterations favored surgery.
In a randomized trial of treatments for varicose veins, disease-specific quality of life 5 years after treatment was better after laser ablation or surgery than after foam sclerotherapy. The majority of the probabilistic cost-effectiveness model iterations favored laser ablation at a willingness-to-pay ratio of £20,000 ($28,433) per QALY.