Radiofrequency Ablation of Varicose Veins

Radiofrequency ablation is a procedure using radiofrequency energy (instead of laser energy) to heat up and damage the wall inside a vein. This usually closes off a varicose vein in the leg.

Varicose veins are swollen and enlarged veins that usually occur on the legs. They can appear lumpy or twisted as well. Varicose veins develop when the small valves inside the veins stop working properly. The cause of varicose veins is not fully understood, but certain factors can increase the chances of them developing, such as pregnancy, being overweight, and old age. Varicose veins don’t always need treatment as most of the time they do not cause any discomfort. When they do, though, you may experience pain, swelling, skin discoloration, leg ulcers, and inflammation. Some patients may choose to treat varicose veins for cosmetic reasons.


Radiofrequency ablation is used to treat varicose veins. It utilizes radiofrequency (RF) energy to provide an even and uniform heat to contract the collagen in the vein walls, causing them to collapse and seal.

Please inform your doctor of all medication that you are taking as some may need to be stopped before the procedure. Please also let your doctor know if you have any allergies, especially to anesthesia or contrast materials/dye.

Radiofrequency ablation is performed using local anesthesia so you will be awake and aware during the procedure, but will feel no pain. You will need multiple injections of the anesthesia so this may be somewhat uncomfortable. Ultrasound will be used to visualize the enlarged vein and a small catheter will be inserted through your skin and into the vein. Once the catheter is positioned within the varicose vein, a radiofrequency electrode will be passed through it. The catheter will then be pulled back slightly to expose the tip of the electrode. Radiofrequency energy is then applied as the catheter is withdrawn slowly. Pressure will be applied to prevent bleeding. Stitches are not required. The procedure usually takes one hour.

Following the procedure, you will need to wear a compression stocking on the affected leg to reduce bruising and prevent blood clots. You will be able to resume normal activities immediately, but it is not recommended that you get on an airplane or sit for long periods as these can increase the chances of complications. Remain active and move around as much as possible after the procedure.

  • ·        Infection at the site of insertion of the catheter.
  • ·        Damage to the blood vessel.
  • ·        Bruising and tenderness after the procedure.
  • ·        Nerve damage.
  • ·        Inflammation of the vein.

·        Travelers to Thailand should plan to stay in the country for at least 5-7 days through the duration of treatment.

·        If you plan to travel after the procedure, please discuss this with your doctor before making travel arrangements.

·        At your follow-up appointment you will undergo a physical examination and your wound will be checked. You will receive documentation regarding your treatment history and a “fit to fly” certificate (if needed).

·        When traveling by air, please wear compression stockings to prevent thrombosis.

The success of the procedure depends on a number of factors, including patient’s condition. Please discuss the likelihood of success with your doctor before the procedure.

What if this procedure is not performed?

Varicose veins are not health concerns, for the most part. If they do not cause discomfort, they do not need to be treated.

  • Compression stockings.
  • Laser treatment.
  • Sclerotherapy.
  • Surgery.
  • Transilluminated powered phlebectomy.

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