The minimally invasive treatment of varicose veins is radio frequency ablation therapy. The doctor surgically removes the damaged tissue by the application of heat. The heat scars the tissue, which eventually closes the affected vein. Instead of laser ray, radiofrequency waves are used to heat up and damage the inner wall of the affected vein.
In order to do radio frequency ablation therapy, the doctor inserts a thin tube (catheter) through a tiny incision in the vein. The procedure is so simple that it can be done using a mild sedative or local anesthesia. The therapy can be done to treat larger veins on the legs as well. The recovery time is also quite short and the patient would be able to walk following the treatment. Patients are advised to wear compression stockings for one week or more, as per individual condition. During the follow-up, the doctor uses a duplex ultrasound in order to ensure that the affected vein is completely closed.
Radio Frequency Ablation Steps
At the time of the procedure, the patient is asked to sign consent forms, the list of medications presently taken, and mention of any current allergy to a specific medication. The whole treatment procedure lasts for fifteen to forty-five minutes (depending on the number of affected veins), followed by a recovery period.
Step 1: The patient lies on the x-ray table and local anesthesia (or mild sedative for relaxation) is given to make the treatment area numb.
Step 2: The skin over the affected area is well cleaned. During the whole procedure, the patient remains awake and aware and can provide feedback to the physician.
Step 3: With the guidance of x-ray (fluoroscopy), a special radiofrequency needle is directed alongside the lateral or medial branch nerves. The fluoroscope allows the doctor to watch the needle on the real-time fluoroscope monitor, to ensure that the needle goes into the desired location.
Step 4: A tiny amount of electrical current is passed through the need to the target nerve, keeping a safe distance from other nerves, through the administration of radiofrequency waves, creating a small burn known as lesion. The current creates a pressure and the patient might feel a muscle twitch. This electric current disrupts the pain-producing signal. On each site, the burn takes approximately 90 seconds.
Step 5: The targeted nerves are then numbed to minimize the pain, when these single or multiple (if required) lesions are created.
The Side Effects of Radio Frequency Ablation Treatment
Radio frequency ablation is relatively a safe procedure, with minimal complications. However, some possible side effects of radio frequency ablation treatment are-
- Feelings of pain, burning, prickling after the recovery (usually from nerve damage)
- Skin burns
- Localized numbness
- Allergic reaction to medication
- Large or small blood clotting in the veins or deep veins
However, these side effects are less likely to take place if the radio frequency is done by an experienced doctor.