Laser Ablation and Radiofrequency Ablation: What's the Difference?

Written By Center for Vein Restoration
Blog Image Laser Ablation Radiofrequency

This blog explores two prominent endovenous ablation treatments for varicose veins: radiofrequency ablation (RFA) and laser vein ablation, also known as endovenous laser therapy (EVLT). Both procedures are minimally invasive and use heat to close the affected vein; however, they differ in their energy sources. Understanding these differences is helpful for patients who are considering undergoing one of these outpatient procedures to treat problem veins.

Among modern varicose vein treatments, endovenous ablation stands at the forefront of modern vein treatments, offering a safe, efficient, and minimally invasive alternative to traditional surgical interventions. If you're troubled by varicose veins or venous insufficiency, consult a vascular specialist to determine if laser ablation or radiofrequency ablation is the right solution for you. Take the first step towards healthier, more beautiful legs with this cutting-edge vein treatment.

Why use endovenous thermal ablation?

According to the Cleveland Clinic, endovenous thermal ablation is the chosen treatment method if you have medium to large varicose veins in your legs that bulge and are bluish or skin-colored. These bulging veins are the result of weak or damaged one-way valves in the blood vessels that fail to move blood toward your heart. The blood pools in the legs, causing the bulge or swelling of varicose veins.

Endovenous ablation closes the diseased vein, shrinking it. Blood reroutes to healthy nearby veins.

How do these vein treatments differ?

On a surface level, RFA and laser treatment operate in a very similar way. They are both minimally invasive and involve the insertion of a catheter using heat to close the vein. The primary difference lies in the energy source used to create heat. RFA uses radio waves, while laser vein removal uses lasers. In RFA, the heat application is done automatically, whereas in laser treatment, the consultant manually calculates the correct area to apply the heat to the vein.

What is laser ablation, and how does it work?

Laser ablation has revolutionized the field of vein treatment by offering a minimally invasive and highly effective solution for conditions like varicose veins and chronic venous insufficiency. Unlike traditional surgical procedures, laser ablation requires no incisions or general anesthesia, making it a popular choice for those seeking a quicker recovery and reduced post-procedure discomfort.

What happens during laser ablation?

The procedure typically begins with a thorough evaluation by a vascular specialist to assess the extent of the vein problem. Once the affected veins are identified, the patient is prepped for the treatment, which is often performed on an outpatient basis.

During laser ablation, a thin fiber-optic catheter is inserted into the affected vein under ultrasound guidance. This catheter delivers laser energy directly to the vein wall, causing it to heat up. The controlled application of laser energy generates thermal damage to the vein, leading to its closure. As the vein closes, blood is rerouted to healthier vessels, alleviating symptoms and improving overall circulation.

What are the advantages of laser ablation to treat varicose veins?

One of the key advantages of laser ablation is its precision. The laser energy selectively targets the problematic vein while minimizing damage to surrounding tissues. This precision not only enhances the effectiveness of the treatment but also contributes to a faster recovery.

Patients undergoing laser ablation typically experience minimal discomfort during the procedure. Local anesthesia is usually administered to ensure the patient's comfort, and the entire process can often be completed within an hour.

Post-procedure, patients are encouraged to engage in light physical activity to promote blood circulation. Compression stockings may also be prescribed to aid in the healing process. Most individuals can return to their regular activities within a day or two with few restrictions, making laser ablation an attractive option for those with busy lifestyles.

What is radiofrequency ablation (RFA), and how does it work?

For individuals grappling with the discomfort and appearance of varicose veins or chronic venous insufficiency, radiofrequency ablation (RFA) offers a modern and effective solution. RFA has emerged as a highly sought-after alternative to traditional vein surgeries. This minimally invasive technique has gained popularity for its ability to treat venous issues with precision and minimal downtime. So, what sets RFA apart, and how does it work?

Approved by the FDA in 1999 to treat varicose veins, RFA uses radiofrequency energy to close diseased veins. A thin catheter is inserted into the targeted vein under ultrasound guidance during the procedure. This catheter delivers radiofrequency energy to the vein wall, heating it and causing it to collapse. The controlled application of heat ensures the closure of the problematic vein while sparing the surrounding healthy tissues. As the vein closes, blood is naturally rerouted to healthier veins, improving circulation and alleviating symptoms.

What are the advantages of radiofrequency ablation in treating varicose veins?

One of the significant advantages of RFA is its ability to precisely target the affected vein, minimizing damage to surrounding tissues. This precision enhances the effectiveness of the treatment and contributes to a faster and smoother recovery process for patients.

Patients undergoing RFA often experience minimal discomfort during the procedure, as local anesthesia is typically administered to ensure their comfort. The entire process is usually completed within an hour, making it a convenient option for those with busy schedules.

Post-procedure, patients are encouraged to engage in light activities to promote blood circulation and aid in the healing process. Compression stockings may also be recommended to support the veins and reduce swelling.

Is endovenous thermal ablation the right vein treatment for me?

Many minimally invasive, effective outpatient vein treatment procedures are available today. Only a vein specialist can know which treatment is right for you by considering the specific characteristics of your unique condition.

At Center for Vein Restoration (CVR), your vein health journey begins with a Doppler ultrasound. This painless, noninvasive, radiation-free diagnostic technique allows your vascular technician to study the movement of blood in your arteries and veins. Because this diagnostic tool is used as a preventative measure to identify venous insufficiency before it progresses to more severe stages, insurance providers typically cover venous ultrasound.

Find out if a thermal ablation technique or any advanced treatment options at CVR is the answer to your achy, swollen, tired, heavy-feeling legs or unsightly varicose veins. Call 240-965-3915 to speak to a Patient Services Representative or schedule your consultation online at a CVR near you today.

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