Radiofrequency Ablation for Varicose Veins


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Radiofrequency ablation or endovenous ablation is a treatment whereby the walls of the varicose veins are heated using catheters and a generator. This causes the varicose veins to collapse redirecting the flow of blood to normal veins. It is minimally invasive and as a result allows you to return to work immediately after treatment.

Before Radiofrequency Ablation Treatment

Before you undergo radiofrequency ablation, treatment you should tell the surgeon what medications you are taking, including any herbal extracts or supplements. You should also explain any allergies that you may have. You may be advised to stop taking certain drugs for example blood thinners or anti- inflammatory medication.

Procedure for Radiofrequency Ablation of Varicose Veins

Radiofrequency ablation is a recent treatment, which is also used in the treatment of cancer. In the treatment of varicose veins, it involves inserting a catheter into the varicose vein using a needle. This is guided using an ultrasound, which displays the blood flow in your legs allowing the practitioner to identify any varicose veins. The needle is then withdrawn leaving the hollow catheter in its place. A radiofrequency electrode is then inserted into the catheter and emits heat using radiofrequency energy. As the vein wall is heated, the collagen shrinks causing the vein to collapse. Once the vein is closed, the blood automatically bypasses it using only the healthy veins.

The varicose vein should be fully closed within a week of treatment. There will be a noticeable improvement in your condition within one to two weeks and this will improve during the months after treatment. You may require an ultrasound scan on the treatment area to examine the treated vein and determine whether further treatments are required.

Benefits of Radiofrequency Ablation for Varicose Veins

Radiofrequency ablation is a minimally invasive procedure; it requires only a small cut in the lower leg reducing the risk of infection, which is brought about through groin surgery. It is also an outpatient procedure and requires only a local anaesthetic making post- treatment recovery much quicker. Because it is minimally invasive radiofrequency, ablation leaves little or no scarring.

Radiofrequency ablation is believed to cause less bruising and discomfort after the procedure making the recovery time much quicker and more comfortable than other options. This means that you can return to your normal daily life much quicker reducing the cost of loss of earnings. Although long- term efficacy cannot yet be reviewed in the short term radiofrequency ablation is believed to be effective in over 95 % of treatments.

Risks and Limitations of Radiofrequency Ablation

Although the risk of infection after radiofrequency ablation is limited, it is still possible to contract one where catheter was inserted. There may also be some damage, bruising, and swelling of the blood vessel into which the catheter was inserted.

In rare cases, the nerves surrounding the treatment area are damaged leading to short- term loss of feeling. This is normally reversed within a few months and only effects small patches of skin. Thrombophlebitis is a more common side effect; it is the inflammation of the treated veins that can cause redness and pain in the treatment area. It can also cause the formation of blood clots in the treated vein but normally responds to treatment with anti- inflammatory medication.

It is difficult to pass a catheter through a distorted vein due to the number of twists in it. Because of this, radiofrequency ablation is better suited to large varicose veins, which are easier to traverse. Sometimes radiofrequency ablation fails to resolve issues within smaller branches of the varicose vein and as a result has to be combined with surgery or sclerotherapy.


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