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Comparison of endovenous radiofrequency versus 810 nm diode laser occlusion of large veins in an animal model.

BACKGROUND: Endovenous occlusion using radiofrequency (RF) energy has been shown to be effective for the elimination of sapheno-femoral reflux and subsequent elimination of varicose veins. Recently, endovenous laser occlusion has been introduced with initial clinical reports indicating effective treatment for varicose veins. However, in our practice we note increased peri-operative hematoma and tenderness with the laser. Little is known regarding the mechanism of action of this new laser vein therapy.

OBJECTIVE: To better understand the mechanism of action of endovenous laser vs. the endovenous RF procedure in the jugular vein of the goat model.

METHODS: A bilateral comparison was performed using 810 nm diode laser transmitted by a bare-tipped optical fiber vs. the RF delivery by engineered electrodes with a temperature feedback loop using a thermocouple (Closure procedure) in three goat jugular veins. Immediate and one-week results were studied radiographically and histologically. Temperature measurements during laser treatment were performed by using an array of up to five thermocouples, spaced 2 mm apart, placed adjacent to a laser fiber tip during goat jugular vein treatment.

RESULTS: Immediate findings showed that 100% of the laser-treated veins showed perforations by histologic examination and immediate contrast fluoroscopy. The RF-treated side showed immediate constriction with maintenance of contrast material within the vein lumen and no perforations. The difference in acute vein shrinkage was also dramatic as laser treatments resulted in vein shrinkage of 26%, while RF-treated veins showed a 77% acute reduction in diameter. At one week, extravasated blood that leaked into the surrounding tissue of laser treated veins acutely, continued to occupy space and impinge on surrounding structures including nerves. For the laser treatment, the highest average temperature was 729 degrees C (peak temperature 1334 degrees C) observed flush with the laser fiber tip, while the temperature feedback mechanism of the RF method maintains temperatures at the electrodes of 85 degrees C.

CONCLUSION: Vein perforations, extremely high intravascular temperatures, failure to cause significant collagen shrinkage, and intact endothelium in an animal model justify a closer look at the human clinical application of the 810 nm endovenous laser technique. Extravasated blood impinging on adjacent structures may theoretically lead to increased peri-operative hematoma and tenderness. Further study and clinical investigation is warranted.

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