What is Radiofrequency Ablation?

Radiofrequency ablation is an effective varicose vein treatment.

Ablation is any medical procedure in which a doctor uses heat to damage tissue with the intent of causing scars to form. Vein surgeons use ablation to treat varicose veins. The heat causes enough damage to shut down the vein. The body routes blood to other veins. The treated vein breaks apart, and nearby tissue absorbs the remnants as the varicose vein fades from view.

Radiofrequency ablation means the vein surgeon uses the heat of radiofrequency waves to treat veins. Other types of ablation use other means to create heat. Endovenous laser ablation (EVLA) uses the heat of laser light to scar the diseased vein.

About Varicose Veins

Varicose veins are enlarged, swollen veins that appear most commonly in the legs. This vein disease is widespread, affecting up to 35 percent of people living in the United States, according to the Society for Vascular Surgery.

Veins deliver blood from the far reaches of the body back to the heart. Special valves trap blood in small segments of the veins in between heartbeats to prevent the flow from flowing backward into the feet. Faulty valves can allow blood to accumulate in the lower legs. Doctors refer to this as venous insufficiency.

Accumulation of blood causes veins to bloat, twist, and develop into varicose veins. Venous insufficiency can also cause swelling and skin changes.

Fortunately, treatments like radiofrequency ablation can help.

What to Expect with Radiofrequency Ablation

Radiofrequency ablation always begins with a consultation, in which the vascular surgeon will ask about your health history, evaluate your veins, and review your treatment expectations. Your vein doctor will then help you decide if radiofrequency ablation is right for you.

There is no particular preparation for radiofrequency ablation. Your vein doctor may recommend that you avoid shaving the area or using lotions or creams there the day of the procedure. Wear comfortable clothing that allows you to expose the treatment area. You may need to wear a gown.

Before radiofrequency ablation, your vein doctor will perform an ultrasound of the veins in your legs. The ultrasound helps pinpoint the diseased vein and guides the surgeon.

Your vascular surgeon will administer a small amount of a topical anesthetic to your skin; this is the only part of the procedure that you might feel slight discomfort. The doctor will then insert a skinny tube, known as a catheter, into your skin at the vein. Once inserted into the right spot inside the diseased vein, this catheter emits radiofrequency waves that irritate and close the vein. The doctor removes the catheter and wraps your leg in a compression bandage.

You can walk around immediately after the procedure. Walking helps stimulate circulation. You will be able to go home right away and resume moderate activity.

Once home, you will wear bandages or elastic stockings as directed, keep your legs elevated, and walk several times each day but avoid heavy lifting or strenuous exercise for the first few days.

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