Does Radiofrequency Ablation Work?

Written By Center for Vein Restoration
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Radiofrequency ablation is a minimally invasive treatment for varicose veins. This technique uses radiofrequency energy to heat up and damage the wall inside a vein. This scar tissue closes the vein, and blood is redirected to nearby healthier veins.

The minimally invasive radiofrequency ablation (RFA) procedure is a very successful treatment for varicose veins. The closure of these diseased veins can be confirmed conclusively by ultrasound. While the actual “failure” rate of RFA is very low, it is essential that the doctor, along with the patient, first determine:

The difference between “failure of treatment” vs. “progression of the disease.” Because venous disease is a progressive medical condition that worsens over time, it is likely that other veins have become abnormal, not that the previous treatment failed.

If the initial treatment included the entire vein or just a part of the vein. At some vein centers, providers treat only a small section of the vein, rationalizing that only that small section is currently diseased. At Center for Vein Restoration (CVR), our vein experts' recommendation to patients is if a piece of the vein is abnormal and is causing symptoms, we should treat it as part of the whole vein. Our vein physicians prefer not to retreat a section of the same diseased vein and charge the insurance carrier again for an area that could have been treated the first time.

If the current vein issue is in the same or different area than was initially treated. While varicosity might look like it is in the same place to the patient, it is usually not the same vein. A distance as small as 1 cm can make all the difference between the location of a previously treated vein and a newly diseased vein.

Can Radiofrequency Ablation Fail?

There is a fine balance and a bit of an art to how aggressively to treat a vein, which may sometimes lead to undertreatment. At CVR, our philosophy is to deliver enough energy to cauterize (i.e., close) the vein and cause it to scar (which is what you want to happen to close the vein), but not overdo it and overtreat the vein. Some veins require more energy, which an experienced vein doctor who has done thousands of cases, like the vein experts at CVR understand.

In addition, side branches to the larger vein can sometimes continue to feed, or pressurize, the vein that the doctor is trying to scar and shut down. As a part of the vein treatment plan, CVR physicians will go after these side branches, with the treatments working together to achieve the desired results.

Often, the only way to know if treatment successfully made the vein contract and become a scar is after the fact.

What to Do When Treatment Doesn’t Work

Sometimes vein treatment requires a second look. Having another treatment may be necessary to correct a particularly problematic vein. That's why having a vein center such as CVR is important. CVR uses only the most advanced treatments and has alternative options available to their physicians if needed.

Can Radiofrequency Ablation be Performed a Second Time?

There is an important distinction between “can” and “should” RFA be performed a second time. Because RFA is not radioactive in any way (like an x-ray), theoretically, one can safely have RFA many times on the same vein.

The reality is that insurance carriers may not pay for repeat RFA procedures. Insurance carriers have a limit to the number of treatments they will pay for. If you are going to treat a vein, you may have only one shot at doing it with RFA.

Chose an Experienced Vein Doctor Near You

The vein experts at Center for Vein Restoration are all experienced physicians trained in the newest technology for the treatment of vein disease. Our vein doctors come from diverse professional backgrounds, including vascular surgery, interventional radiology, interventional cardiology, emergency medicine, and OBGYN, and provide state-of-the-art vein care.

Don’t trust your health to anyone else! Call 240-965-3915 to speak to a Patient Services representative or to schedule an appointment. Visit for more information.

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