Radio-frequency Ablation (RFA), also called the Closure procedure, is a minimally invasive varicose vein treatment technique that utilizes radiofrequency energy (electricity) to heat, collapse and seal targeted blood vessels.
Initially, ultrasound is utilized to map the course of the a diseased vein. Subsequently, the physician guides a catheter (thin tube) into the diseased vein, through a small incision in the skin and vein wall. The catheter is advanced under ultrasound guidance through the vein and appropriately positioned. Electricity is delivered to a heating element in 20-second pulses, heating and contracting the collagen within the walls of the vein until they shrink and permanently collapse. This process is called ablation.
The vein is treated in segments as the catheter is gradually retracted towards the incision. When the entire vein has been ablated, the blood flow is automatically rerouted through adjacent healthy veins, restoring and improving circulation and reducing swelling. The ablated vein becomes scar tissue and is absorbed by the body. Possible rare complications of endovenous radiofrequency ablation are thermal skin burns and transient numbness.
RFA is reimbursed by Medicare and most private insurers, once proof of medical necessity has been documented and the patient has failed conservative therapy. Approved for use in the United States by the Food and Drug Administration in 1999, RFA is performed in a physician’s office utilizing local anesthesia. Patients are encouraged to walk immediately following the procedure, and are usually able to resume their normal activities within twenty-four hours. Compression stockings are generally prescribed for one to two weeks following the procedure.
RFA offers a variety of benefits including:
- Relief of symptoms
- Minimally invasive, nonsurgical procedure
- Same day, outpatient procedure
- Minimal downtime
- Minimal or no scarring