Radiofrequency Ablation (RFA)
Most often used for varicose veins like the EVLT procedure, the RFA technique uses radiofrequency energy (instead of laser energy) to heat up and damage the wall inside an incompetent vein.
Varicose veins can cause discomfort and can be unsightly. This is why you will want to consider effective treatments such as radiofrequency ablation (RFA).
RFA is an increasingly popular varicose vein treatment for being minimally invasive. But before we move forward, it is crucial to understand this term.
Radiofrequency means to use radio wave energy (instead of laser energy) to heat up and cauterize the wall inside a vein.
Ablation means heated until it is dissolved. The heat cauterizes the tissue, which makes scar tissue form within the vein. This scar tissue closes the vein and eventually gets absorbed by the body.
What is Radiofrequency Ablation (RFA)?
In RFA, the walls of the defective vein is heated up until it closes and blood will now flow through all the other surrounding veins that are working properly. Through time, the treated vein will shrink and be absorbed by the body.
This entire treatment is done under the guidance of ultrasound. Under ultrasound guidance, the defective vein will be identified. A small amount of local anesthetic is injected into the skin over the vein being treated and a needle is inserted into the numbed area and into the vein. A wire is passed through the needle and up the vein. The needle is removed and a catheter (thin plastic tubing) is passed over the wire, up the vein and the wire removed. A very thin Radiofrequency wire is inserted into the catheter until its tip is at the highest point of the vein to be treated. A small amount of fluid is delivered around the vein to isolate and protect the nerve and tissue from the heat of the radiowaves. The Radiofrequency machine is then turned on and the vein is treated in segments.
After the treatment, the patient’s leg is cleaned and a compression wrap in put around the leg over the treated vein. The patient is asked to walk and stay active for the day so that the blood flow finds its new pathways. The patient may return to work or resume most of their normal daily activities.
Where Is RFA Used
RFA is often used to treat:
Great saphenous vein. This large, superficial vein is the longest in the human body. It runs along the length of your lower limb, transporting blood from the foot, leg, and thigh to the femoral vein (behind the knee).
Small saphenous vein. It is a large, superficial vein at the back of the calf carrying blood to the popliteal vein, which is a deep vein.
Perforator veins. They connect superficial veins to deep veins. Varicose veins that branch out of perforated veins may be treated using foam sclerotherapy, sclerotherapy, and ambulatory phlebectomy.
Lymphedema. Lymphedema is a condition that results in swelling, typically in the arms or legs. This may be caused by a blockage in the lymphatic system or when lymph nodes are removed (as may be done as part of cancer treatment).
Generally, RFA is for larger veins. Other minimally invasive procedures may be undertaken for smaller veins.
Who Is A Good Candidate for RFA?
Most individuals with varicosities are suitable for RFA, especially those who have tried simpler methods but still experiences symptoms.
The vein specialists at Vein Institute of Pinellas studies each patient’s case with extreme meticulousness. This is for them to identify the best treatment plan for the patient.
It is important to inform us if you are:
- Pregnant or planning to become pregnant soon
- Drinking alcohol or smoking regularly
- Allergic or intolerant to certain types of medications. It would be helpful if you could describe your reaction to these medications in the past.
Inform our vascular doctor if you are taking medications. You may have to stop taking them (or just some of them) before the tests. These include:
- Anticoagulants. Medicines that thin the blood and prevent clotting
- Over-the-counter pain relievers such as ibuprofen and aspirin
- Any prescription medicine
- Illegal drugs
- Vitamins, herbs, or any other supplement
Is RFA Safe?
Every medical procedure comes with a certain risks. But as long as it is performed by a highly-trained staff, such as the Vein Institute of Pinellas, the side effects can be managed.
How Well Does Radiofrequency Ablation Work?
- RFA closes off abnormal veins in 88 out of 100 people. This figure is remarkable and only means that RFA really works.
- Pain after RFA is reported less than after surgery.
- If the veins do not close after RFA, your vein doctor will request a different procedure.
Our vein doctors are willing to discuss the procedure in detail, together with its benefits and risk. We want our patients to have a complete understanding of RFA before they decide to undergo this procedure.
Numerous people choose to under RFA than surgery because it takes only a few hours and they can proceed with most of their activities after the procedure. If your lifestyle doesn’t allow you to take long vacations, this is the best solution to your varicose veins problems.
How to Prepare for RFA?
RFA can last for 45-60 minutes. If you are going to include the preparation and recovery time, it takes 1-3 hours on average. This is an exceptionally small inconvenience when compared to surgery.
At the Vein Institute of Pinellas, it is performed in a private, sterile room that is fully-equipped and decorated to soothe the patients. You are allowed to go home the same day of RFA, but you are advised not to drive, swim, or do anything strenuous for the treated area (e.i legs) for a few weeks.
Do not worry because you can go on with most normal activities.
You will be asked to lie down on a comfortable bed. Afterwards, the imaging method (ultrasound) will be ran along the length of leg to locate the varicose vein. Your leg will be injected with local anesthesia and a small opening will be made into the vein. Through this opening, the catheter with radio energy source will be inserted. You may be given extra anesthesia depending on the length of the treatment.
The vein specialist might also decide to tie up or remove brand varicose veins through small incisions.
After a certain period of time, the catheter will be removed slowly. To stop any bleeding (which is usually very minimal in RFA), pressure will be applied. You may have to wear an elastic compression stocking to assist recovery and prevent complications.
How Is Recovery?
On average, recovery time for RFA is 1 to 3 weeks. If you follow the directions of the vascular expert from Vein Institute of Pinellas, your recovery will be faster and risk of complications will be reduced.
Make sure to do the following:
- Take your prescribed medications as directed by the doctor.
- Take care of the site where the catheter was inserted, as directed by the doctor.
- Be watchful of signs of infection.
- Do not take off your bandages or compression stockings unless instructed by the doctor.
- Do not wet the catheter insertion site.
- Elevate your legs as directed. This is to prevent blood from accumulating in the treated area.
- Perform light exercises to encourage good blood circulation. Vein Institute of Pinellas advises patients to walk at least 10 minutes for every hour.
- Avoid heavy exercises such as lifting.
- Avoid sitting or standing for long periods.
- Avoid saunas and hot baths.
- Avoid air travel and trekking.
Discomfort is at its peak around 3 to 10 days after you had RFA. But it quickly decreases the next after the procedure. Redness, bruising, tenderness, soreness, and numbness should be expected. But your vein doctor can prescribe medicines to alleviate these.
Patients come back for a follow-up visit within a week after the surgery. An ultrasound will be requested to monitor the progress and to check for complications.
In some cases, further treatment is needed.
How Much Does Radiofrequency Ablation Cost?
Vein Institute of Pinellas is a fully-licensed vein treatment facility in Tampa Bay. We accept Medicare and many other insurance providers to cover vein treatments. Our vein experts are willing to review your case and make a quotation so that you can fully prepare for it.
Many patients choose RFA because its cost is just a fraction of the convenience and satisfaction that it has to offer. Rather than leaving work for weeks to recover from surgery, you need only at least day to get back on track.
The success rate of the procedure is also high which means you are going to get the best value from it.
Why Vein Institute Pinellas is Best Vein Treatment Provider in Tampa Area?
Vein Institute of Pinellas is made of fully-licensed, widely-experienced, and deeply-knowledgeable vein specialists who can create personalized and effective treatment plans for various vein problems.
To ensure that our patients get the best possible health care, we ensure that we have the most advanced technology for diagnosis and treatment of vein problems.
Our clinics are located in Sun City Center, Largo, and St. Petersburg. If you have a busy schedule, do not worry because we offer before and after office hours appointment times.
Because we know that vein problems can be complex, we offer a wide array of treatment options.
Book an appointment now and get rid of those unpleasant varicose veins.