According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS), 208,069 laser treatments for varicose veins were performed by ASPS member surgeons in 2013.
Furthermore, 98,496 of those procedures were performed on patients over the age of 40. As expected, given that the overall popularity of cosmetic procedures is greater among women than men, the procedure was also more popular with women (180,158 procedures) than men (27,911 procedures).1
Given the increasing overall popularity of cosmetic procedures, as well as the size of the aging baby boomer population (estimated at 76 million births between 1946 and 1964)2, it should be clear that there is a large, untapped market for cosmetic laser therapies. Savvy DCs can use this information to benefit their bottom lines by offering cosmetic laser therapy procedures for treating varicose veins and other skin issues.
What are varicose veins?
The veins in the body are a vital part of the circulatory system. They carry blood from the heart to the lungs in order to pick up oxygen then take the oxygen-rich blood through to the rest of the body. Once the blood has reached the various organs, the veins then carry it back to the heart to once again pick up oxygen from the lungs and circulate throughout the body.3
Veins have a one-way valve that keeps the blood flowing continuously to the heart. If this valve becomes weak, blood may back up in the veins, leading to varicose veins, which are visible under the skin. Although varicose veins can happen anywhere on the body, they are most common in the legs, as the legs are the extremities furthest from the heart. Age, heredity, obesity, or pregnancy can all be causes for varicose veins.3
Therapeutic lasers heat the skin, which forms scar tissue as a result. This scar tissue closes the vein, which then loses blood and eventually dies.4
There are two types of laser treatments for veins: simple laser treatment and endovenous laser treatment.4
- Simple laser treatment works on small veins just under the skin’s surface. The laser simply heats the skin from the outside.
- Endovenous laser treatment is used for larger varicose veins that may not be just below the surface of the skin. A thin laser fiber is inserted into the vein in order to create the scar tissue.
A study published in the January 2009 issue of the Journal of Vascular Surgery pooled 64 articles to assess the efficacy of endovenous laser treatment compared to the more invasive ligation or stripping procedures. The study found that endovenous laser treatment was more effective (94 percent) than stripping (78 percent), foam sclerotherapy (77 percent), and radiofrequency ablation (84 percent).5
Many DCs may already be offering therapeutic laser services for wound healing and pain relief. Adding varicose vein treatment may simply make good financial sense, as the laser hardware is already in place.
1 American Society of Plastic Surgeons. “2013 Plastic Surgery Statistics Report: ASPS National Clearninghouse of Plastic Surgery Procedural Statistics.” Plasticsurgery.org. http://www.plasticsurgery.org/news/plastic-surgery-statistics/2013.html. Published 2013. Accessed February 2015.
2 Pollard K, Scommegna P. “Just how many baby boomers are there?” Population Reference Bureau. http://www.prb.org/Publications/Articles/2002/JustHowManyBabyBoomersAreThere.aspx. Published April 2014. Accessed February 2015.
3 National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. “What are varicose veins?” National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/vv. Published February 2014. Accessed February 2015.
4 Healthwise Inc. Staff. “Laser treatment for varicose veins.” WebMD. http://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/laser-treatment-for-varicose-veins. Reviewed March 2014. Accessed February 2015.
5 Arends L, Kockaert M, Neumann M, Nijsten T, van den Bos R. Endovenous therapies of lower extremity varicosities: a meta-analysis. J Vasc Surg. 2009:49(1);230–239.