In radiofrequency ablation, a thin catheter is gently inserted into the vein through the skin. The catheter emits radio waves, which heat specific areas of the affected vein, causing it to close. The catheter is withdrawn and the healing process begins almost immediately, as the closed vein is reabsorbed into the body and blood supply in that area is naturally rerouted through other, healthier veins.
When is this procedure used?
Used to treat the great saphenous vein, the small saphenous vein, and some perforator veins–connecting veins that transport blood from the superficial veins under the skin to the deep veins under the muscles–radiofrequency ablation is an innovative and safe alternative to the traditional stripping operation.
What should I expect from radiofrequency ablation?
As a catheter procedure, there are four principal steps of radiofrequency ablation:
1) Mapping the Saphenous Vein
A typical procedure begins with noninvasive ultrasound imaging of the varicose vein to trace its location. This allows our physician to determine the site where the ablation catheter will be inserted and to mark the desired position of the catheter tip to begin treatment.
2) Inserting the Closure Catheter
Our physician then injects a volume of diluted anesthetic fluid into the area surrounding the vein. This numbs the leg, helps squeeze blood out of the vein, and provides a fluid layer outside the vein to protect surrounding tissue. Then, our physician accesses the saphenous vein or the appropriate vein, inserts the Closure catheter, and advances to the uppermost segment of the vein.
3) Delivery of Radiofrequency Energy
Noninvasive ultrasound is used to confirm the catheter tip position, then the physician activates the RF generator, causing the electrodes at the tip of the catheter to heat the vein wall to a target temperature. As the vein wall is heated, the vein shrinks and the catheter is gradually withdrawn. During catheter pullback, which typically occurs over 1 – 2 minutes, the RF generator adjusts the power level to maintain the target temperature to effectively shrink collagen in the vein wall and close the vein over an extended length.
4) Follow Up with Ultrasound Study
24–72 hours after your treatment, ultrasound imaging is used to check for a DVT (deep vein thrombosis).
What kind of results are achieved?
When done by a doctor with plenty of radiofrequency experience, chances of treatment success are good. Radiofrequency closure works well in about 97 out of 100 people who have it. Ablation treatment noninvasive and far less painful than the vein surgeries of the past - vein stripping or ligation And, after five years or more, results from ablation are generally just as good as they are from surgery.
What should I do after my radiofrequency ablation treatment to ensure vein health?
Exercising, maintaining a healthy body weight, and avoiding prolonged periods of sitting or standing will help ensure your vein health following radiofrequency ablation. If you notice any new veins or your condition isn't improving, reach out to your CVR doctor. Veins that don't close will be treated again.