Varicose Vein Repair using Radio Frequency or RF Ablation (Scarless)

Radio Frequency Ablation, also called RF Ablation, is the latest technique available for varicose vein repair.




Varicose vein of leg

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.

treatment using radiofrequency ablation

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.

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    Entering the faulty vein

    A small nick, about 3mm wide, is made on the surface of the affected vein.

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    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.

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    Activating the RF Probe

    Once inside the affected vein, the tip of the RF probe splays to get in contact with the vessel wall

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    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.

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    Scarless Procedure

    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.

Treatment window

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

Varicose veins are dilated, and tortuous or worm like veins that are seen in the leg, and sometimes in the testes (varicocele), in the esophagus (varices), etc.
Most veins drain from one place and go into another. There is often a valve at the junction of the veins. If the valve does not function well, the blood refluxes from the vein above to the vein below and fills it up. In the leg, the huge long saphenous vein in the front and the short saphenous vein behind, go into the groin and back of the knee joint respectively. Should the valves in these veins be faulty, the blood refluxes into the long or the short sapheno venous system, giving rise to varicose veins in the front or the back of the leg respectively.
Yes, it is definitely hereditary and someone with a positive family history is at a higher risk to get it.
Other conditions that worsen varicose vein are pregnancy, tumors in the abdomen, etc.
A simple Doppler test will confirm varicose veins and tell us where the valves are faulty and most importantly, tell us if the deeper veins are open or clotted. It is important to know whether the deep veins are clotted or not, because if person’s deep veins are clotted, then he/ she should not undergo any form of varicose vein surgery.
Yes, one can actually strip off the entire vein from the top to the bottom using a series of tiny incisions. Although this is the classical method of surgery and we don’t really perform it these days, but it can be done.
Being an institute of minimal access or keyhole surgery, LIMA offers the latest Radiofrequency Ablation.
In this procedure, a tiny hole is made and a long wire is passed into the vein. We then use a radiofrequency wave to cook the lining of the vein so that the vein contracts close due to the heat. This is done segment by segment, all the way until the entire length of the varicose vein is completely thrombosed. This is a scar less technique, and is painless. It is often done as a day case.
Radiofrequency Ablation is cheaper than the open surgery. There is little cost involved in using the radiofrequency gadgetry, but the price is insignificant.

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