How do I prepare for radiofrequency ablation (RFA)?

State-of-the-art treatments such as radiofrequency ablation are minimally invasive, low risk, and effective options to get rid of varicose veins. Learn what this procedure entails and how to prepare for radiofrequency ablation.

Purpose of Radiofrequency Ablation

Varicose veins form when the walls of your veins become weakened. This causes veins to bulge and swell. Traditional methods of vein treatment involved stripping the veins from the skin, leading to pain and scarring. Newer methods like radiofrequency ablation, or RFA, remove varicose veins without causing these complications.

In radiofrequency ablation, your vein doctor will insert a small catheter, or tube, into the diseased vein. This requires a very tiny incision. The catheter then delivers heat using radiofrequency energy. This targets the collagen in the vein walls, causing the molecules to collapse. Once the vein walls have collapsed, your body naturally diverts blood to alternative pathways and reabsorbs the varicose vein.s

How to Prepare for Radiofrequency Ablation

Before you arrive for your RFA appointment, your vein doctor will provide specific instructions about how to prepare. In general, you should do the following to prepare for radiofrequency ablation:

  • Arrange transportation to and from the appointment if you are taking a sedative medication
  • Take your sedative (if prescribed) approximately 1 hour before the procedure
  • Drink lots of water
  • Remember your compression stockings
  • Wear loose clothing. This might include sweatpants, shorts, or a skirt. Tight clothing restricts your motion and may affect healing.
  • Know that your underwear may get stained. Depending on the placement of the affected vein, your doctor may prep your entire leg, including groin area.
  • Fill out paperwork and bring your health insurance card.

What to Expect After Radiofrequency Ablation

Radiofrequency ablation is minimally invasive. As a result, most people find that they experience only minor discomfort during the procedure. Additionally, receiving radiofrequency ablation can lead to lower rates of pain, bruising, and scarring compared to other vein treatment options. For best outcomes, follow this advice after your RFA procedure:

  • Do not sit or stand for long periods of time
  • Avoid heavy lifting and strenuous activity for 2 weeks.
  • Walk frequently after your procedure.
  • Wear your compression stockings for at least 3 days after the RFA procedure (taking them off at night). Wearing them longer may help.
  • Schedule a follow-up appointment with your vein doctor. This typically includes an ultrasound within 1-3 days.
  • Take showers, but avoid submerging yourself in water for at least one week. This means no baths, swimming, or hot tubs.
  • Try to move around at least once per hour.
  • Take baby aspirin, if medically indicated by your doctor.

The area affected by the varicose vein may be tender and have slight bruising after radiofrequency ablation. Follow your doctor’s care instructions to ensure a healthy recovery.

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