Radio Frequency Ablation, also called RF Ablation, is the latest technique available for varicose vein repair.
Veins are pipes (blood vessels) that carry spent blood (deoxygenated blood) from the rest of body, to the heart and the lungs. The force of blood flow in the veins is not very high. Hence, there are high chances that the blood may back flow. To prevent this, nature has kept leaf like valves inside the blood vessels to stop the blood from flowing back.
When these valves fail to do their job, the blood flows back, stagnating in the veins and bulging them. These bulging veins look large and zigzag in pattern. They are usually found just under the skin surface in the legs. These are known as varicose veins. Other than unpleasant appearance, varicose veins can also cause rashes, sharp pain, etc.
Varicose vein repair Background
Because of gravity, blood in the lower leg needs to put in maximum efforts to raise up to the heart. The muscles in the legs help the veins by giving some additional lift. However, the veins near the surface of the lower legs do not get much of lift assistance from the leg muscles. Hence, blood in these veins stagnate and they turn into varicose veins.
As the veins near the surface usually carry only a small amount of blood from the legs (typically, less than 10%), it is safer to do away with them.
In the olden days, as a standard treatment for varicose veins, surgeons used to strip away the faulty veins. However, the latest treatment for varicose veins is called RF ablation (RF = Radio Frequency, Ablation = Vaporization).
With RF Ablation, the surgeon sends a thin wire (catheter), with a radio frequency probe attached to its end. The probe is gently heated up using the carefully controlled radio frequency waves. The heat causes the veins to contract and close.
How is Varicose Vein Repair performed using RF-Ablation?
Ablation is the surgical destruction of a particular body part or tissue using heat. RF-Ablation uses Radio Frequency to heat up the veins from within, shrink and close them.
Entering the faulty vein
A small nick, about 3mm wide, is made on the surface of the affected vein.
Catheter with RF Probe
A thin tube, known as a catheter, is inserted into the affected vein through the nick made by the surgeon. The catheter carries a RF (Radio Frequency) probe at its tip.
Activating the RF Probe
Once inside the affected vein, the tip of the RF probe splays to get in contact with the vessel wall
Scorching the Varicose Vein
Precisely controlled radio frequency waves are used to heat the RF Probe to about 120d C. This heats the body of the diseased vein. The vein closes and shrinks as the probe is withdrawn.
The scar of the nick (through which the catheter/probe enters the vein) usually fades away in a few weeks.
Of all the technologies available for varicose vein repair, RF-Ablation is fastest, very reliable and has no known adverse side effects.
Varicose veins don’t go away unless treated. Moreover, with time, multiple bleeding ulcers may appear in the leg if left untreated. These complications are much more severe in elderly and diabetic patients. Hence by treating the condition early, such complications can be avoided.
Care After Radio Frequency Ablation
After the procedure, the dressing remain for two days. After 2 days, special stockings are to be worn during the daytime for about 12 hours. One doesn’t wear the stocking at night.
Patients can, and must, start walking normally after the procedure because inactivity can lead to development of clots inside the vein. 20 minutes walk per day is advised. However strenuous and stressful activities can be avoided for at least 2 weeks.
Varicose vein repair FAQ’s
RF Ablation Specialists
Dr. C.M.K. Reddy
Consultant General & Vascular Surgeon
M.B.B.S., DSc., F.R.C.S. (GLAS), F.R.C.S., F.R.S.H (Eng), F.I.C.S, F.I.C.A (USA)
Dr. P. Ilayakumar
Consulting Vascular Surgeon
M.B.B.S., M.S. (GENERAL SURGERY), M. CH. (VASCULAR SURGERY)