Patients Report Positive Experience with Radiofrequency Ablation for Varicose Veins
By Amanda Dolan for Veins1
New studies show that patients prefer the newer Radiofrequency Ablation (RFA) over conventional surgery when it comes to treating varicose veins. Radiofrequency Ablation is a medical procedure that uses a high frequency current to treat certain medical conditions. RFA is typically used to treat rapid heartbeats or arrhythmias and even certain tumors. The probe of the RFA is inserted to destroy small tumors that occur within organs or used to destroy cancer that has metastasized to other organs. RFA is preferred now over old techniques as it can be used without general anesthesia and tends to provide better outcomes for patients. Within the last 15 years, RFA has been used more and more. With help from interventional radiologist or cardiac electrophysiologists, RFAs are performed while looking at x-rays, CT scans, or ultrasounds.
RFA is being used now to treat varicose veins. The latest study took place in the Department of General Surgery at King’s Mill Hospital in Mansfield, UK. Patients selected for the study suffered from symptomatic varicose veins due to something called isolated great saphenous vein or GSV incompetence. The GSV is the major vein running from the large toe up into the thigh, where it joins with the femoral vein. Patients with varicose veins have a GSV that has become enlarged and thus cannot properly conduct blood flow, sometimes causing it to flow backwards and enlarge even further. When standing or walking, patients with varicose veins may experience pain from the built-up pressure. The varicose veins also protrude from the leg, causing cosmetic anguish for some.
Patients chosen to participate in this particular study had varicose GSV and were also considered “suited for RFA.” Patients in this study were either administered the conventional surgical treatment for varicose veins – which includes saphenorfemoral disconnection and stripping – or given the RFA treatment. To perform the RFA on these veins, a radiofrequency catheter is inserted into the vein, by using an ultrasound to guide it, and the vessel is treated with the radio-energy. This closes the vein. After treatments, clinical, radiological and patient-based outcomes were recorded at 1 week and 5 weeks after treatment.
In all 47 patients who received it, the RFA was successful in completely destroying the GSV incompetence. On the other hand, complete above-knee stripping was not successful in seven out of the 41 patients who received it. Though RFA was completely successful for all patients, it did require more time than the surgery to perform. The RFA, on average took about 76 minutes to perform while the surgery took only 48 minutes, on average.
The best news was that, for those patients who received the RFA—all returned to their normal activities sooner than those who were recovering from the surgery. Those who received the RFA took about 3 days of recovery time before participating in normal activities while those who received the surgery took an average of 12 days recuperation time. In addition to less down-time, patients who underwent the RFA treatment expressed significantly less pain after the treatment. Overall patient satisfaction, in fact, was higher among those who received the radiofrequency ablation.
In the future, it seems that the new technology of radiofrequency ablation will provide a significantly better outcome for patients. While it takes more time to perform, it provides a better overall experience for patients who suffer from great saphenous varicose veins and require treatment to reduce side effects and possible problems caused by GSV incompetence.
Source: PubMed and Wikipedia
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