Heart Health

Endovenous Radio Frequency (RF) Ablation

What is radiofrequency ablation?

Similar to endovenous laser treatment (EVLT), radiofrequency ablation (RFA) is a minimally invasive procedure that is used to treat varicose veins. However, instead of using a laser filament to treat the damaged blood vessel, RFA uses a thin laser fiber or radiofrequency catheter to collapse and close the varicose vein.

Varicose veins occur when a superficial vein becomes swollen, dilated, and overfilled with blood. Weak or damaged valves are often the cause of varicose veins. If these valves are unable to regulate the flow, the blood begins to cluster. This results in the stretched and disfigured mounds beneath the skin known as varicose veins.

What happens during radiofrequency ablation?

During the RFA procedure, an interventional radiologist will insert a radiofrequency catheter into the diseased vein. The doctor will then guide the catheter through the vein, using an ultrasound to see inside the patient. Once the catheter is into position, radiofrequency energy produces heat to cauterize the damaged or weakened veins.

As the body begins to recover from the RFA procedure, patients can expect to see the treated veins shrink and fade away as blood flow is redirected towards healthier veins.

What are the benefits of radiofrequency ablation?

  • The recurrence rate of varicose veins is lower with RFA.
  • The complication rate is lower with RFA.
  • There is no general anesthesia needed to perform RFA.
  • RFA is less painful.
  • RFA is an outpatient procedure with virtually no recovery period necessary.
  • There is minimal to no scarring with RFA.

What are the risks of radiofrequency ablation?

RFA is a safe and minimally invasive procedure. However, with any medical treatment, there are potential risks. Risks and side effects can include infection, swelling, redness, bruising, burns, and blood clots. To reduce the chance of adverse effects associated with the procedure, it is essential to follow all instructions provided by the Baptist Health staff before, during, and after your treatment. 

RFA is a great option if you are considering treatment for varicose veins. Talk with your doctor to learn more about what treatment options are available and which one may be right for you. If you are suffering from leg discomfort or have questions about varicose veins, call the Baptist Health Vein Center to schedule a free screening.