Radio Frequency Ablation

What is Radio frequency Ablation?

Radio frequency ablation, also commonly known as RF ablation, is a relatively new and advanced technique to address the varying degrees of vein disease. It is commonly used to treat superficial varicose veins. Radio frequency ablation is an innovative vein treatment that poses less risk to patients who opt for vein removal. With traditional vein surgery, there is much more bruising and bleeding when veins are removed, or stripped. There’s also a higher risk that vein disease will recur when new veins will grow in the area, and these veins may also become insufficient.

Radio frequency ablation is a process that uses high-frequency radio wave therapy to treat varicose veins or veins that have become too weak or damaged to carry blood properly. Radio frequency ablation uses advanced Radio frequency technology to shrink superficial veins and relieve pain. This procedure is usually done on larger varicose blood vessels. Once the vein shrinks, the body will “rewire” blood to other healthy blood vessels.

This FDA-approved treatment for varicose veins has a success rate of over 95%.

The best part about Radio frequency ablation is that it generally requires a very short period of recovery, and the actual procedure itself usually takes no longer than 1 hour to complete.

What Causes Vein Problems and Pain?

Healthy vessels have a one-way valve that allows blood to travel only one way. Bad vessels, on the other hand, have valves that are damaged or worn. This worn valve may cause blood to pump in the opposite direction, posing a serious threat to one’s health in some cases. This is what’s called venous reflux, which can cause severe pain.

Vein disease, such as varicose or incompetent veins, affects every individual differently. While some people are able to cope with these conditions, others find that their quality of life is negatively impacted by such disorders. Common vein disorders include:

  • Deep vein thrombosis (DVT)
  • Pulmonary embolism
  • Varicose veins
  • Spider veins
  • Chronic vein insufficiency
  • Phlebitis
  • Leg ulcers
  • Venous malformations

These disorders can range mild to severe or life-threatening. For many people, early symptoms of disordered veins are mild and may not need treatment. But if you do need treatment, radio frequency ablation is an excellent option.

What Will the Doctor Do for My Treatment?

During this process, an infrared laser or high-frequency radio waves are used to produce intense and localized heat. With these heat sources, a specific vein is targeted. This is what usually occurs during a standard laser vein removal procedure:

  • Before treatment, if the patient is anxious or nervous, the physician will offer a sedative that can be picked-up at their pharmacy before their procedure date.
  • When they arrive at the office, they will be taken to a private treatment room.
  • The area of treatment is sanitized and anesthetized.
  • A catheter is used to specifically direct the intense heat to the target area as well as avoid surrounding tissue damage.
  • The damaged vein is shrunken or closed off, but not removed in order to prevent excessive bleeding or damage.
  • As the body heals in the coming days and weeks, the body reroutes blood to healthy veins.

The procedure for radiofrequency and lasers are a bit different.

If the surgeon is using radio frequency, it is important that the area to be operated on be bloodless, since blood can coagulate on the tips of the catheter and make it less effective. Because of this, doctors often use heparin, a blood thinner, to clear any blood from the area.

With the laser procedure, blood is used to transfer the heat to the vein and destroy it. The Physician uses ultrasound along with a local anesthesia to help him insert a catheter. Tumescent anesthesia is then introduced around the entire vein. After this process, a catheter is inserted and introduces heat to shut down the vein. To make the procedure even more effective, the patient is put in what’s called the Trendelenburg position. The patient is placed on his or her back, and the platform they’re on is tilted between 15 and 30 degrees so the legs are higher than the head.


Radio frequency ablation usually takes about an hour. It is considered an outpatient procedure, and the patient is able to go home right after the procedure. As the healing process begins, other veins will begin to take on its job of carrying blood.

The patient should not attempt strenuous activity right after the surgery, but can resume normal daily activities. They need to keep the surgical area dry and clean. Patients should wear compression stockings while they heal from the surgery. A few patients have numbness around the surgical site and notice bruising, and some patients experience minimal pain. However, these conditions should go away after a about a week or so, and the Physician recommend treatments the patient can do at home to ease discomfort. In very rare cases, blood clots form in the area of the vein removal, and the nerves in the area are irritated.

This revolutionary vein surgery process leaves absolutely no scarring or other types of marks, due to the fact that the catheter is only a few millimeters in diameter.

Is the Procedure Painful?

Generally speaking, the procedure is not painful, mainly because of the anesthetics used. Once the procedure is done, the only medication really needed are anti-inflammatories. Overall, the pain level is very light to non-existent.

Am I a Candidate for this Procedure?

Anyone who experiences pain, swelling, or heaviness in their legs, ankles or pelvis is likely to have varicose vessels. You may also experience pain from standing up for extended periods of time. It’s also important to note that not all varicose vessels are visible from the outside. Some can be hidden deep underneath the skin. However, a proper evaluation will be able to tell whether or not one has the condition.

If you develop varicose veins during pregnancy, it is recommended that you wait to get treatment until after your pregnancy.

What Risks are Associated with Radio frequency Ablation?

This therapy is considered to be much safer than traditional treatments for varicose veins, such as ligation or vein stripping. However, it is important to keep in mind that this is still a surgical procedure. Thus, there are some risks to consider, such as:

  • Localized bruising
  • Localized pain or swelling
  • Formation of blood clots
  • Nerve damage
  • Potential for infection

There may also be other associated risks depending upon individual patient history.

Long-Term Success Rates of Radio frequency Ablation

Since this FDA-approved treatment for varicose veins has a success rate of over 95%, patients have a good outlook for:

  • Improved circulation
  • Reduced swelling and improved appearance
  • Lessened pain
  • Reduced risk for blood clots or ulcers

Like any other surgery, Radio frequency ablation comes with its risks, but these are only minor compared to the benefits.

If you are ready to stop suffering from vein disease, call us today! 435-673-2301 We can help.