Q. What is the vein ablation treatment?
A. This minimally-invasive treatment is an outpatient procedure performed using imaging guidance. After applying local anesthetic to the vein, the interventional radiologist inserts a thin catheter, about the size of a strand of spaghetti, into the vein and guides it up the greater saphenous vein in the thigh. Then laser or radiofrequency energy is applied to the inside of the vein. This heats the vein and seals the vein closed. Reflux within the greater saphenous vein leads to pooling in the visible varicose veins below. By closing the greater saphenous vein, the twisted and varicosed branch veins, which are close to the skin, shrink and improve in appearance. Once the diseased vein is closed, other healthy veins take over to carry blood from the leg, re-establishing normal flow.
Q. What are the benefits of vein ablation?
A. The treatment takes less than an hour and provides immediate relief of symptoms. You can return to normal activity immediately with little or no pain. There may be minor soreness or bruising, which can be treated with over-the counter pain relievers. There is no scar, because the procedure does not require a surgical incision, just a nick in the skin, about the size of a pencil tip. Traditionally, surgical ligation or vein stripping was the treatment for varicose veins, but these procedures can be quite painful and often have a long recovery time. In addition, there are high rates of recurrence with the surgical procedures, on average 10 – 25 percent.
Q. How successful is the vein ablation?
A. The two-year data show a 93-95% success rate. This is a much higher efficacy rate than surgical ligation or stripping.
Q. Are there other treatments for varicose veins?
A. Ambulatory phlebectomy and injection sclerotherapy are also used. Ambulatory phlebectomy is a minimally-invasive surgical technique used to treat varicose veins that are not caused by saphenous vein reflux. The abnormal vein is removed through a tiny incision or incisions using a special set of tools. The procedure is done under local anesthesia, and typically takes under an hour. Recovery is rapid, and most patients do not need to interrupt regular activity after ambulatory phlebectomy. Injection sclerotherapy can also be used to treat some varicose and nearly all spider veins. An extremely fine needle is used to inject the vein with a solution which shrinks the vein.