Radiofrequency Ablation (RF)
Radiofrequency Ablation (RF) is a minimally invasive procedure used in the treatment of varicose veins. It’s an alternative to the traditional stripping surgical procedure.
Under ultrasound guidance, a radio frequency catheter is inserted into the abnormal vein and the vessel is treated with radio-energy, resulting in closure of the problem vein. Radio frequency ablation is used to treat the great saphenous vein, small saphenous vein, and perforator veins. The latter are connecting veins that transport blood from superficial veins to the deep veins. Branch varicose veins are then usually treated with other minimally invasive procedures.
Radiofrequency ablation is a minimally invasive treatment for varicose veins. (Ablation means a doctor uses heat to damage tissue, which makes scar tissue form. This scar tissue closes the vein.) This technique uses Radio Frequency Energy, (instead of laser energy) to heat up and damages the wall inside a vein. This usually closes off a varicose vein in the leg. To treat a varicose vein, radiofrequency energy is directed through a thin tube (catheter) inserted through a small incision in the vein. It can be used on large veins in the leg and can be done in an office setting using local anesthesia or a mild sedative. You will be able to walk following the treatment and recovery typically is short.
After treatment, a patient will wear compression stockings for 1 week or more. To follow up, your doctor will use duplex ultrasound to make sure that the vein is closed.
Is it safe?
Possible side effects of radiofrequency ablation include:
Skin burns; Feelings of burning, pain, or prickling after recovery, from nerve damage (less likely than after vein stripping surgery). Small or large blood clotting in the vein or a deep vein (less likely than after vein stripping surgery).
How well does it work?
Radiofrequency ablation closes off varicose veins in about 88 out of 100 people. That means it doesn’t work in about 12 out of 100 people.
- Pain after treatment is typically less after ablation than after vein surgery.
- Veins that do not close are treated again. Choices include another ablation or another type of procedure.