Researchers at Imperial College London have found that foam injections to treat varicose veins cause less pain for patients and was over four times more cost-effective than laser treatment.
It also allowed patients to resume normal activity sooner.
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.
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 anaesthetic.
Foam sclerotherapy involves injecting foam into the vein that inflames the lining of the wall and seals the vessel.
The new study compared these two treatments in terms of benefit to the patient and cost.
The two treatments were found to be equally successful at closing off varicose veins. However, foam therapy procedures were more than twice as quick and cost over four times less than laser treatment on average.
Patients who had foam therapy experienced less pain in the week following treatment and could return to normal activity in three days, compared with eight days for patients who had laser therapy.
“This is the first time that anyone in the NHS has compared foam and laser treatments to see which is better value for money,” said Christopher Lattimer, from the Department of Surgery and Cancer at Imperial College London.
“We found that foam was 4.2 times cheaper, taking into account their effectiveness. Foam treatment was also quicker, less painful, and had people back to normal activity in a shorter time,” he added.
The findings were presented at the annual meeting of the European Vascular Society in Athens.