Radiofrequency Occlusion

What is radiofrequency occlusion?
Radiofrequency occlusion is a minimally invasive procedure which can be performed in the physician's office or an ambulatory surgery setting with local anesthesia and some intravenous sedation. After the area has been cleaned, local anesthetic is injected into the distal area of the vein to be treated. A small tube or catheter is threaded along the vein under direct ultrasound guidance injecting local anesthetic along the way for patient comfort. When the entire vein to be treated has been canalized, sound waves are used to heat and collapse the vein beginning from the top down. The collapsed vein results in a thin scar which is eventually absorbed by the body.

What are varicose veins?

Varicose veins or swollen blood vessels in the legs are a problem for about 10% of men and as many as 30% of women. The problem results from a combination of hereditary factors, along with a buildup of pressure in the veins from prolonged standing, and, in woman, pregnancy. The most common symptom of varicose veins is unsightly bulges which are often painful and result in swelling of the feet and legs along with leg cramps. Occasionally a break down of the skin around the ankles known as venous stasis ulcers occurs. Several treatment options exist depending on the type of varicose veins involved. One modern approach is radiofrequency occlusion.

What is the recovery like after radiofrequency occlusion?
Following treatment of all the veins targeted for radiofrequency occlusion, a compression bandage is place on the leg. The bandage is left in place for about two days and when it is removed, compression stockings are worn for the next two to three weeks as healing occurs. Patients are able to ambulate following a short recovery period at the physician's office or surgery center. Most patients who have the radiofrequency occlusion procedure are able to return to their normal activities within a few days if they avoid heavy lifting and wear compression hose.

What are the benefits of radiofrequency occlusion over other similar treatments?
The advantages of radiofrequency occlusion in the treatment of varicose veins are numerous. Traditionally varicose veins have been treated with surgical vein stripping requiring a general anesthetic. Radiofrequency occlusion requires less anesthesia and the patients are ambulatory within a short period of time following surgery. This decreases the risk of blood clots that can occur as a result of immobilization. The decreased requirement for anesthesia with radiofrequency occlusion also allows the physician to perform this procedure in the office or an outpatient center. With no incisions involved, healing occurs at a faster rate, allowing for return to work in a shorter period of time.

What are the possible complications or side effects of radiofrequency occlusion?
The cosmetic and functional results of radiofrequency occlusion are comparable to or even better than surgical vein stripping. However, as with any medical procedure, complications can occur. The chance of bleeding, infection or blood clots exists with radiofrequency occlusion just as with other procedures. Immediate and long term results are improved due to the lack of incisions and trauma from this minimally invasive procedure compared to traditional surgery. One unique complication with radiofrequency ablation is the small chance of a skin burn due to the method of occlusion. In experienced surgical hands these complications are rare.

How does radiofrequency occlusion compare to surgical vein stripping procedures?
Patients who undergo radiofrequency occlusion when compared to those who undergo traditional vein stripping procedures benefit from a less anesthesia, a reduction in the time taken to treat the same number of veins, and a faster recovery. For these reasons radiofrequency occlusion of larger varicose veins, with its minimally invasive approach, is a sensible solution to this unsightly and uncomfortable problem.

Is radiofrequency occlusion approved for use in the U.S.?

Radiofrequency occlusion is approved for use in the United States to treat varicose veins due to dilatation of the great saphenous vein or other large veins in the legs. Only a physician experienced in performing this procedure can properly evaluate patients to determine if they are appropriate candidates. As with any surgical procedure the patient's general health and fitness for surgery must also be evaluated to insure the procedure is safe.

Do insurance carriers provide coverage for radiofrequency occlusion treatments?
Many insurance companies cover radiofrequency occlusion with the same stipulations they would for any surgical procedure. Typically a patient must try conservative means of therapy for varicose veins. Exercise, weight loss, and compression hose are recommended as treatment before surgery is considered. Costs of radiofrequency occlusion depend on the extent of the varicose veins to be treated. Radiofrequency occlusion does not treat all types of varicose veins. To be completely rid of all varicose veins, some patients may require additional types of procedures and more than one treatment time.

How do I know if radiofrequency occlusion is the best treatment option for me?
As each patient must be treated individually, the best way to find out if radiofrequency occlusion is the appropriate procedure is to find a physician with experience in treating varicose veins with radiofrequency occlusion. After a thorough history and physical examination, the physician will be able to best determine if radiofrequency occlusion is the best procedure in addition to discussing other therapies and possible complications.

Disclaimer: This information is intended only as an introduction to this procedure. This information should not be used to determine whether you will have the procedure performed nor does it guarantee results of your elective surgery. Further details regarding surgical standards and procedures should be discussed with your physician.

By Staff
Updated: October 14, 2009

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Featured Radiofrequency Occlusion Specialist

Georgia Vascular Institute
Jonesboro, GA

Georgia Vascular Institute is a referral center for the diagnosis and treatment of a wide range of conditions in all fields of Medicine. Our philosophy is to have a multidisciplinary and collaborative approach with our referring physicians to provide the best care for our patients.

Our physicians are fellowship trained in the field of Vascular and Interventional Radiology and Board Certified. We provide a wide range of procedures utilizing minimally invasive techniques including uterine fibroid embolization, varicose and spider vein therapies, treatment of peripheral arterial disease (PAD), cancer intervention, dialysis access care, central line placements, kyphoplasty/vertebroplasty, nephrostomy and biliary tube placements, and many more.

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