Radiofrequency ablation (RFA) is a minimally-invasive procedure used to treat varicose veins. Over the past decade, this along with Endovenous Laser Ablation (EVLA) has emerged as the gold standard treatment, due to their high success rates, short recovery times and minimal discomfort for patients. We have found our patients get the best results when it is used in conjunction with sclerotherapy.
Radiofrequency ablation involves inserting a catheter into the vein then delivering a source of heat, closing off the vein and stopping the flow of blood. During RFA treatment, radiofrequency energy is administered in 20-second bursts directly into the vein through a tiny catheter. Rather than clotting the blood, the radiofrequency energy targets the collagen in the vein wall, causing it to shrink and prevent blood from circulating through that vein. The patient should not be able to feel this happening. The blood is rerouted through other healthy blood vessels.
Differences in EVLA and RFA
Although the differences between the two procedures are minimal, our experts may decide one is preferable over the other depending on the patient.
For example, EVLA tends to be better suited for patients whose veins are larger in diameter or if blood clots are present. For other patients, RFA may be the better choice because it tends to result is slightly less discomfort, bruising, and has a lower risk complications overall. Both treatments effectively relieve varicose vein symptoms such as aching, itchiness, throbbing and swelling.
Importance of Ultrasound during RFA
Ultrasound imagery is an integral component of RFA because it helps doctors guide the catheter through the vein. It essentially creates a picture of your vascular network and allows the doctors to see what’s happening inside your body. It can also reveal blood clots or a condition known as deep vein thrombosis (DVT).
You’ll be allowed to go home almost immediately after your procedure. To help with your recovery, you’ll be asked to wear the bandages provided continuously for 48 hours, and special compression socks for a further 3 – 5 days. You will also need to walk a minimum of 30 minutes each day for 2 weeks after treatment.
Radio frequency ablation is a very low risk procedure. Patients may experience some bruising and discomfort for a few days to weeks but it should not impact your daily life. Although complications with RFA are extremely rare, there are some potential side-effects including, deep vein thrombosis (1% risk), nerve injury and skin burns.
Have questions about Radiofrequency Ablation treatment?
What can I expect during treatment?
- After your scan at our clinic your leg will be cleaned before a tiny amount of anaesthetic is applied (using super fine needles).
- A catherer is inserted into the vein and the Radiofrequency Ablation fibre is inserted.
- A cool anaesthetic is then applied around your vein to protect surrounding tissue.
- During the procedure the Radiofrequency Ablation fibre will be pulled back to seal the faulty vein. The should be no pain when the RadioFrequency Ablation fibre is being used.
- After the procedure you will be required to wear bandages/compression stockings for three days and walk half an hour a day. These will be provided with your treatment or you can purchase additional in The Vein Institute shop.
- Long distance travel is not permitted for 4 weeks.
- Your leg may feel numb for six hours after the procedure but no effect on walking will occur.
- A follow up appointment is required for all patients. At this appointment side veins may be treated with ultrasound guided sclerotherapy.
How does Rediofrequency Ablation work?
How does blood get back to the heart if the vein is damaged?
Do I need to prepare for the procedure?
- If your procedure is scheduled for the morning, be sure to eat breakfast and take any normal medications.
- You should wear loose-fitting pants because your legs will be wrapped with elastic bandages after the procedure.
- Avoid shaving your legs the morning of the treatment.
Can I drive after a Radiofrequency Ablation treatment and what must I do?
- Yes you can drive after the procedure (if you have not taken any medication for anxiety).
- However no long distance travel > 5 hours is recommended. If this is necessary you are required to have an injection of Clexane.
- All patients must wear stockings overnight and for up to 3 days.
- All patients must have a review scan after the procedure between 1-2 weeks from the date of treatment.
What are the possible complications of Radiofrequency Ablation?
Very Rare: DVT/Pulmonary Embolism. An extremely rare complication which will require the use of Clexane.
Extremely rare: Nerve damage.