Ultrasound-guided ablation is an alternate procedure used in place of surgical stripping. It can be used for deeper, larger varicose veins that a physician isn’t able to treat with a laser for varying reasons such as the vein’s structure, visibility, or location in the body. Ultrasound imaging lets the physician accurately target the varicose vein for better treatment results.
Ultrasound is a non-invasive imaging technology that lets the physician see inside the body. Ultrasound-guided ablation is also called radiofrequency ablation (RFA) or catheter ablation. Radiofrequency energy is similar to the heat energy used by a microwave oven; this is the energy used to destroy the target tissue. Patients feel neither heat nor pain when this energy is used. The catheter is the device used to deliver the radiofrequency energy to the appropriate area of blood vessel.
Ultrasound-guided ablation is a minimally invasive surgical procedure. No overnight hospital stay is required in most cases. The procedure is typically performed in a cardiac catheterization lab (“cath lab”) or electrophysiology lab (“EP lab”), generally within a hospital. It can usually be completed within 2-4 hours. The patient is given a sedative and local anesthesia and the procedure is performed under conscious sedation.
Very few side effects are associated with ultrasound-guided ablation. Rarely, the catheter can cause bleeding and/or damage to the blood vessel in which it is inserted or the patient can develop an infection at the site of insertion. Long-term problems from these side effects are extremely uncommon.