What is ablation?
Ablation involves the insertion of a thin, flexible tube called a catheter through tiny incisions and the use of heat or chemicals to damage the tissue. There are three types of ablation procedures used on varicose veins:
Radiofrequency ablation. Radiofrequency ablation is a newer, minimally invasive treatment that uses radiofrequency energy to damage tissue, which makes scar tissue form and close the vein. It can be used on large veins in the leg and can be done in an office setting using local anesthesia or a mild sedative.
Endovenous laser ablation. Until recently, laser treatment was mainly used for treatment of spider veins on the face; however, newer technology can now effectively treat larger varicose veins elsewhere in the body. Your doctor will insert a tiny fiber into a varicose vein through a catheter that sends out laser energy to destroy the diseased portion of your varicose vein.
Chemical ablation. Also known as sclerotherapy, this procedure consists of injecting a saline or chemical solution directly into the vein causing it to harden. Some people experience minor stinging or cramps when the needle is inserted into the vein.
What to Expect
Ablation takes about one hour under local anesthesia or with a mild sedative. After your doctor uses ultrasound to map the leg veins and mark them on your skin, he or she will pass the catheter through a tiny incision in the skin above the vein and move it to the end of the vein to inject a chemical or use radiofrequency energy or laser light to destroy the tissue along the length of the vein. In all three types of procedures, the treated vein(s) will no longer be able to fill with blood, forcing the blood to reroute through healthier veins.
After the Procedure
You’ll be able to resume normal activities immediately after an ablation procedure; however, you should avoid strenuous activities for one to two weeks. To prevent blood clots, you will wear compression socks or bandages for several days or weeks following the procedure.
Most healthy patients with varicose veins are eligible for varicose vein ablation. If you are pregnant, and want to treat varicose veins, you’ll need to consult with your doctor to discuss any risks that may be associated with ablation procedures.