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Radiofrequency Ablation for Varicose Veins

Treatment Overview

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 may wear compression bandages or stockings. Your doctor will tell you how long to wear them. To follow up, your doctor will use duplex ultrasound to make sure that the vein is closed.

How Well It Works

Radiofrequency ablation closes off varicose veins in about 97 out of 100 people. That means it doesn't work in about 3 out of 100 people.footnote 1

Veins that do not close may be treated again. Choices include another ablation or another type of procedure.

Risks

Risks of radiofrequency ablation are not common. Examples of risks include:

  • Skin burns.
  • Feelings of burning, pain, or prickling after recovery. This is from nerve damage. These symptoms typically go away over time.
  • Small or large blood clotting in the vein or a deep vein.

References

Citations

  1. Whing J, et al. (2021). Interventions for great saphenous vein incompetence. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, (8). DOI:10.1002/14651858.CD005624.pub4. Accessed August 30, 2022.

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