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Radiofrequency ablation is a minimally invasive treatment for varicose veins. (Ablation means a doctor uses heat to damage tissue. This makes scar tissue form. The scar tissue closes the vein.) This technique uses radiofrequency energy (instead of laser energy) to heat up and damage the wall inside a vein. This usually closes off a varicose vein in the leg.
To treat a varicose vein, radiofrequency energy is directed through a thin tube (catheter) inserted through a small incision in the vein. It can be used on large veins in the leg. It can be done in an office setting using local anesthesia or a mild sedative. You will be able to walk after the treatment. Recovery typically is short.
After treatment, you will wear compression stockings for 1 week or more. To follow up, your doctor will use duplex ultrasound to make sure that the vein is closed.
Radiofrequency ablation closes off varicose veins in about 88 out of 100 people. That means it doesn't work in about 12 out of 100 people.footnote 1
Possible risks of radiofrequency ablation include:
CitationsVan den Bos R, et al. (2009). Endovenous therapies of lower extremity varicosities: A meta-analysis. Journal of Vascular Surgery, 49(1): 230–239.
Current as of: March 28, 2022
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:E. Gregory Thompson MD - Internal Medicine & Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine & David A. Szalay MD - Vascular Surgery
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