Radiofrequency ablation (RFA) is one of the exciting new, minimally invasive techniques replacing the vein stripping procedure of the old days of varicose vein treatment. With RFA, your provider uses a thin catheter to introduce heat via radiofrequency energy (as opposed to laser energy) into the diseased vein, causing it to close and permanently seal shut. Blood is naturally rerouted to healthier veins nearby, and the varicose vein is gradually reabsorbed by the body and disappears from view. RFA is appropriate for use on the large veins of the leg, including the great saphenous vein.
During the procedure, you will be awake and comfortable. Local anesthetics are used along the length of the vein to be treated. A catheter is inserted through a tiny incision in the skin, using real-time ultrasound imaging for proper positioning. Once the radiofrequency energy is introduced, a precise burn closes the vein and destroys the nerve that is causing pain. Several veins may be treated with the same procedure. The catheter is then withdrawn, and the procedure is over.
RFA can be carried out right in our comfortable vein clinic in Houston on an outpatient basis, with no need to visit a hospital or experience lengthy recovery times. In fact, the procedure takes just 30-45 minutes, and you will be up and on your way shortly afterward.
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Your leg will be wrapped in an elastic bandage (compression stocking) for a few days. During that time, you can continue with work and life as usual — although any high-intensity activities like exercise should be postponed for a couple of days. Pain after the procedure is minimal.
You will return for a brief follow-up visit to ensure the vein is completely sealed shut, and most of our patients are back to their full activity schedule within just a few days. RFA is typically definitive, meaning no further treatments are needed right away. Results can take a few weeks to show, but pain relief can be almost instantaneous, lasting for a years. The procedure can be repeated if needed.
Our patients are generally delighted with the results, which are long-lasting and involve much less discomfort than previous vein treatment techniques. It is recommended that patients continue moving and walking as much as possible to allow for proper blood flow. There should be no scarring after the procedure, but it is not unusual to feel stiff, tender knots on the skin surface — with some redness — since it is a sign of the vein closing.
With RFA, you can benefit from the following:
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