Part 1 of 3 Series: What is Radiofrequency Ablation?
Christopher Bulger, MD, FACS, is a double board-certified vascular surgeon and vein disease expert. He is the lead physician at Center for Vein Restoration’s South Windsor and Glastonbury, CT locations. In this three-part series, Dr. Bulger explains the radiofrequency ablation procedure in depth. He covers what it is, its history in treating tumors, and outlining how it is now used to treat venous insufficiency in the legs.
The History of Radiofrequency Ablation
Dr. Bulger explains that radiofrequency Ablation (RFA) is a minimally invasive method of using heat to treat various parts of the body. Electricity is run through a coil, creating an electrical current that becomes the radiofrequency wave. This wave cauterizes (i.e., heats) a localized area in the body. While we cannot “hear” RFA, it is on that spectrum, says Dr. Bulger. When the wave passes through tissue, it creates heat in a localized area that destroys the surrounding cells or tissue.
RFA was used historically in a variety of methods. First, with a needle used to cauterize and kill tumor cells, it was later used to treat diseased veins. At Center for Vein Restoration (CRV), Dr. Bulger uses RFA to “destroy an abnormal vein that is causing a problem.”
Who is a Good Candidate for Radiofrequency Ablation?
People who are symptomatic for venous insufficiency, that is, have significant leg swelling or large varicose veins, are good candidates for RFA, according to Dr. Bulger. He adds that his patients often discount how the pain, itchiness, and heaviness of their legs negatively impact their daily life and have “come to live with it.” However, the issues associated with chronic venous insufficiency are not normal. Dr. Bulger helps his patients recognize the seriousness of their condition to fully appreciate how much better they feel after the procedure.
What Can a Patient Expect After Radiofrequency Ablation?
“RFA will treat the root problem of what patients are seeing and feeling at the surface,” explains Dr. Bulger. It can relieve “throbbing varicosity” (painful, twisted, and enlarged varicose veins) by shutting down the vein that feeds the painful problem vein (which Dr. Bulger refers to as a “knuckle”), thus taking pressure off that knuckle.
The knuckle will be less enlarged but will not go away completely and may require a second treatment such as a phlebectomy or sclerotherapy, advises Dr. Bulger. RFA reduces the size of the problem vein and “lays the groundwork for the rest of the work we do” to rid a patient of a problem vein completely. Dr. Bulger explains that RFA will relieve the patient of the symptoms of varicose veins (pain, swelling, heaviness), but not necessarily the visual appearance. He adds that this is often difficult for patients to understand because it is sometimes hard to separate what a patient feels from what a patient sees.
While some patients notice immediate results, it might take a bit longer for other patients to feel their results as the vein heals and the scar forms. “It’s only after a couple of weeks, and we’ve done the rest of the treatment to treat the underlying varicosities, that patients come back and say, ‘this feels completely different,’” informs Dr. Bulger.
Do You Have Tired, Painful Legs? We Can Help!
As the leader in the treatment of vein disease, Center for Vein Restoration has over 100 locations nationwide. Our board-certified physicians, like Dr. Bulger, are experts in using advanced therapeutic options to treat the root cause of painful and unsightly veins. Nearly all of these treatments are covered by insurance, including Medicare and Medicaid.
There is no reason to suffer in silence! Call today to make an appointment with a CVR vein specialist near you at 1-800-FIX-LEGS or visit centerforvein.com for more information.