Ablation of veins is a new type of procedural technique that has been the forefront of varicose vein treatment over the last 10-15 years. Vein ablation procedures have largely replaced the vein stripping surgery that most are familiar with for the treatment of varicose veins.
There are three specific types of ablation procedures available for treatment, which include:
- endovascular therapy
All of the vein ablation procedures prevent further blood flow through the veins that have become enlarged with non-functioning valves and therefore reduces the symptoms of varicose veins.
Sclerotherapy uses a special medication that is damaging to the vein. This medication is called a sclerosant and when mixed with air turns into a foamy substance. For this procedure, no cutting over the vein is necessary and this is also performed in an office setting.
An ultrasound machine, which uses sound waves and does not emit any radiation, is used to locate the Saphenous vein. The Saphenous vein is the longest vein in the body, but also superficial, meaning it is close to the surface of the leg.
Once this vein is located, the sclerosant is then injected into the saphenous vein and will travel through some of the other veins that feed into the Saphenous vein. As the sclerosant is foamy, it coats the inside of the vein, burning the vein and causing it to scar.
The scarring closes off the vein and prevents any flow of blood through this portion of the vein. Based on how much sclerosant is used will determine how many of the feeding veins will also be treated. This will be determined by your doctor.
Sclerotherapy is well tolerated with minimal side effects and is also able to be repeated if there are continued problems or pain with varicose veins.
Endovascular Laser & Radiofrequency
Endovascular therapy uses either a laser or radiofrequency, which both use heat, to damage the vein. A specialized radiofrequency probe or laser is used to create heat.
Similar to sclerotherapy, these procedures also uses ultrasound to locate the Saphenous vein. At the level of the knee, a needle is used to puncture inside of the saphenous vein and a catheter is pushed through the vein to the level of the groin, all while using ultrasound guidance.
Once the catheter is in place, a wire is then guided through the catheter, which serves to supply the radiofrequency or laser to the vein. Local numbing medicine is then placed around the vein to protect the surrounding tissue and allow for comfort during the procedure.
The radiofrequency wire or laser is then turned on and slowly drawn out through the vein, heating the vein as it is drawn through the vein. The heat damages the inside of the vein and allows for the vein to scar, preventing further blood flow.
How Vein Ablation Works
All of the vein ablation procedures damage the inside of the vein, leading to scarring of the vein. The scarring prevents further blood flow through the veins that have become enlarged with non-functioning valves and therefore reduces the symptoms of varicose veins, as the non working veins are now scarred and are no longer a passageway for blood.
Vein Ablation vs. Traditional Vein Stripping
There are several advantages of vein ablation procedures over traditional vein stripping surgeries. All types of vein ablation procedures are usually performed in the office or in an outpatient setting. They are minimally invasive, as there are only small cuts made on the skin surface and they allow for a faster return to normal activities.
Consult a Board Certified Vascular Surgeon
In order to determine if a vein ablation surgery is right for you, this requires careful attention to your medical history and careful examination of the veins in your legs. Talk further with your board certified doctor to determine if you are a candidate for a vein ablation procedure.