Radiofrequency ablation

This is a medical procedure which is carried out to treat varicose veins. It involves the use of a high frequency electric current via a probe which heats up the vein and causes it to collapse. This vein then forms into a small scar which is absorbed by the body.

It is one of several options compared to the standard vein stripping surgery and is worth considering along with the other alternatives.

The radiofrequency ablation procedure

A local anaesthetic will be given and possibly a sedative as well. The anaesthetic will numb the area as well as dilating the veins. This makes it easier when inserting the catheter and the probe.

A tiny incision is made either above or below the knee. A catheter (slim tube) is then inserted through this incision and into the vein. It is helped by the use of an ultrasound scan which enables the specialist to have a clear sight of the veins and the correct area for the probe.

A probe is then inserted into the vein via the catheter. This probe transmits radiofrequency energy which has a thermal effect on the vein. It heats up this vein and causes its walls to collapse, effectively closing it down.

A scar then forms which fades and then eventually disappears.

This procedure redirects the blood supply into nearby healthy veins.

The probe and catheter are then removed and a light bandage placed over the incision. A compression bandage is applied to the area.

This bandage is worn for a couple of days. Following this, you will be advised to wear compression stockings for the next three weeks which aid with healing and recovery.

Recovery after radiofrequency ablation

Follow any instructions given by your specialist/GP. Continue to wear compression stockings as directed and remain active. Walk, take exercise and generally, move around as much as you can as this will also help with your recovery.

You can return to your normal daily routine but avoid any heavy lifting or putting a strain on your legs. Try to avoid spending too much time on your feet and take breaks or walk around whenever possible.

Advantages of radiofrequency ablation

This is a minimally invasive procedure which means no general anaesthetic, surgical operation or long recovery time. Less strain on the body means a faster recovery and being able to resume normal activities.

There is also a reduced risk of complications such as an infection or bleeding or deep vein thrombosis (DVT).

Disadvantages of radiofrequency ablation

There are fewer risks with this procedure than compared to traditional surgery. But there is a small risk of complications.

These include:

  • Tingling or "pins and needles" sensation
  • Mild burns on the skin
  • Infection
  • Bleeding
  • Deep vein thrombosis

However, these tend to be rare.

Recovery from minimally invasive procedures such as these is quicker due to the fact that there are no open wounds which mean less stress on the body.

It also means faster healing and a speedy return to your normal day to day routine.

As with any procedure the risks and benefits will be discussed by the specialist with you. He or she will go through these in detail with the aim of ensuring that you fully understand about the procedure.

Guide to Varicose Veins

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