Varicose Veins: Radiofrequency Ablation - Topic Overview
Radiofrequency ablation is a newer, minimally invasive, treatment for
varicose veins. (Ablation means a doctor uses heat to
damage tissue, which makes scar tissue form. This 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
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 and can be done in an office setting using
local anesthesia or a mild
Is it safe?
Possible side effects of radiofrequency ablation include:
- Feelings of burning,
pain, or prickling after recovery, from nerve damage (less likely than after
vein stripping surgery).
- Small or large blood clotting in the vein
or a deep vein (less likely than after vein stripping surgery).
The more experience your doctor has had with radiofrequency, the
less risk you are likely to have. Talk to your
doctor about how often these side effects happen in his or her practice.
How well does it work?
When done by a doctor with plenty of radiofrequency experience,
chances of treatment success are good. Radiofrequency closure works well in about 85 out of 100 people who have it. That means it doesn't work well in 15 out of 100
- Pain after treatment is typically less after ablation
than after vein surgery.
After 2 years or more, results from ablation are generally as good as from vein
- Veins that do not close are treated again. Choices include
sclerotherapy, or surgery to remove the vein.