About one third of the adult population is affected by varicose veins. These swollen, often painful veins in the legs are due primarily to incompetence of the valves in the femoral and great saphenous veins. The results are swollen vessels that are both painful and unsightly. Previously, vein stripping, or surgically removing these large veins under general anesthesia through small incisions, was the preferred treatment. Now, newer techniques like radiofrequency occlusion allow for minimally invasive treatment in an outpatient or office setting with only local anesthesia and intravenous sedation.
Radiofrequency occlusion can easily be performed in an office setting with one small puncture site. Following injection of a local anesthetic at the site of insertion, a catheter or small tube is threaded through the great saphenous vein using sonographic guidance. Local anesthetic is injected along the vein while the patient is also given IV sedation to make the procedure more comfortable. The catheter is withdrawn down the great saphenous vein as the radiofrequency occlusion is performed using sound waves to heat the vein to 185 degrees. The heating process collapses the vein forming scar tissue which will later be absorbed by the body as healing takes place.
Following the radiofrequency occlusion procedure, the leg is wrapped in a tight compression bandage and compression hose are worn for two to three weeks while healing occurs. After a short recovery time due to the mild sedation, the patient is able to return home. Most patients are able to walk and resume normal activities immediately following the procedure. Minor side effects such as numbness and skin discoloration can occur or the procedure may not fully occlude the vein. Studies have shown this procedure is comparable to vein stripping with less pain, no incisions, and faster return to normal function while effectively relieving the symptoms of varicose veins.
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