Endovenous Laser / Radiofrequency Thermal Ablation
These are minimally invasive "walk-in, walk-out" techniques for treating varicose veins. Thermal energy is generated using laser or electrical energy delivered by a fine catheter inserted into the relevant veins.
1. What is Endovenous Laser Therapy (ELT)?
ELT is a minimally invasive treatment for varicose veins. A tiny laser fibre is introduced into the vein at the knee level and passed up to the groin under guidance by ultrasound scan. Laser energy is delivered through the catheter which is slowly withdrawn, heating and shrinking the vein as it does so. As the catheter is withdrawn, the vein is sealed shut and ultimately obliterated. This avoids the need for a groin incision and traditional stripping of the vein out of the thigh. Consequently, there is less post-operative scarring, bruising and discomfort.
ELT can be performed under local or general anaesthesia and the entire procedure takes around 30 minutes per leg. Most patients can return to normal activities more or less immediately.
2. What is Radiofrequency Ablation (RFA)?
Radiofrequency Ablation (RFA) is another minimally invasive technique for treating varicose veins which is an alternative to traditional varicose vein surgery or other methods. A small catheter (e.g. Closurefast) is introduced into the vein through a small puncture at the lower inner thigh or upper calf and passed up to the groin. Radiofrequency energy (microwave) is delivered through the catheter which heats and shrinks the vein wall. The catheter is gradually withdrawn along the vein closing it off as each segment is heated.
3. What are the advantages of ELT and RFA compared with traditional surgery?
There is no need for an incision in the groin and stripping of the vein is avoided. Post-operative scarring, bruising and discomfort are far less. Typically, patients will be able to return to normal activities within 48 hours of ELT or RFA , including driving and working. After traditional varicose vein surgery, most patients will be unable to resume normal activities for one to two weeks.