Varicose vein treatment options

A new treatment for varicose veins looks promising but there’s a danger unqualified operators could benefit at the expense of patients.
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04.Call for accreditation

Endovenous laser therapy: Call for accreditation

At up to $4000 a pop or even more, this increasingly popular treatment isn’t cheap. And in the wrong hands, it may be ineffective or even unsafe. If you’re undergoing endovenous laser therapy, it’s important to know the person is an accredited laser operator trained in its operation.

The machines are readily available, so in theory anyone could buy and use one. Although they’re expensive to purchase, some companies overseas are giving away the machines for free, relying on recouping their largesse from the high cost of consumables, such as the laser probes themselves. According to Dr Kurosh Parsi, President of the Australasian College of Phlebology, this has led to sometimes disastrous results in the United States, such as probes breaking off in the blood vessels (because they were used too often) and long-term complications from inappropriate or incorrect use.

Endovenous laser therapy has been recommended for inclusion on the Medical Benefits Schedule, which means it would then attract a Medicare rebate, possibly before the end of the year. However, there is concern that many people put off by the idea of undergoing surgery who wouldn’t otherwise have sought treatment for varicose veins will come forward, not only increasing demand for services but also enticing practitioners who haven’t undertaken proper training to jump on board the taxpayer-funded gravy train.

The Australasian College of Phlebology has petitioned the government to limit Medicare rebates to patients who attend accredited practitioners; a position supported by the Australian and New Zealand Society of Vascular Surgeons. The society’s president, Dr Michael Grigg, points out that a thorough diagnostic assessment takes more than just knowledge of the technique, which is not difficult to learn, but also a good understanding of vascular medicine. “We have a saying in surgery: it takes about three months to learn how to do a procedure, but it takes three years to learn when to do it.”

CHOICE supports the call for accreditation, because this would encourage consumers to choose practitioners who have been fully trained to safely and effectively use the procedure.

More information

For more information about varicose veins and their treatment, see the website of the Australasian College of Phlebology or phone (02) 9386 1811. Fellows of the College accredited in performing endovenous laser therapy or radiofrequency ablation are listed, while Members of the College certified in sclerotherapy are listed as “Certified Sclerotherapists”.


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