What is a VNUS Radiofrequency Ablation?

A radiofrequency ablation is a minimally invasive procedure that uses local anesthesia and a VNUS catheter to close the targeted vein. There are no sutures or stitching involved.  During the procedure, access to the vein is obtained, after which a small catheter is threaded up the damaged vein. After receiving local anesthesia, the catheter is then used to ablate the vein (segment by segment) using radiofrequency energy in the form of heat.

The procedure itself is usually 10-20 minutes, however your total appointment time is about one hour (from the time you are roomed, until the time you are discharged). After the procedure is completed, a prescription-strength compression stocking will be applied to the treated leg.

After using ultrasound to map the course of the vein to be treated, the physician guides a catheter (thin tube) through a small incision into the diseased vein, threading it through the blood vessel into the groin area. Electricity is delivered to a heating element in 20-second pulses, heating and contracting the collagen within the walls of the vein until they shrink and shut down. This process is called ablation. The vein is treated in segments as the catheter is gradually inched back down towards the incision. When the entire vein has been ablated, the blood flow is automatically rerouted through healthier adjacent veins, restoring healthy circulation and reducing swelling. The ablated vein becomes scar tissue and is absorbed by the body.

Like the VenaCure EVLT™ procedure, which uses a laser to ablate the varicose vein, VNUS RF treatment is an alternative to more invasive leg stripping surgery. It is used primarily to treat the great saphenous veins (GSV), small saphenous vein (SSV), and other superficial veins in the legs. Varicose veins that branch off from these blood vessels are treated with sclerotherapy or phlebectomy.

Approved for use in the United States by the Food and Drug Administration in 1999, the VNUS RF treatment procedure is performed under local anesthesia in a physician’s office, ambulatory surgical center or hospital. Patients are encouraged to walk immediately following the procedure, and are usually able to resume their normal activities within a day. The use of compression stockings is generally prescribed for a week or two.

Some patients may experience temporary soreness or some slight swelling, which can be treated effectively with over-the-counter, non-aspirin pain relievers and typically subsides within the first five days.

Potential side effects of VNUS RF treatment include temporary bruising, swelling and numbness of the treated area, thermal skin burns, numbness that comes and goes, and an allergic reaction to anesthesia.

Like the VenaCure EVLT system, radiofrequency ablation is usually covered by most private insurers and Medicare when proof of medical necessity and previous conservative therapy is provided. Patients should consult their individual insurance carrier to determine their eligibility.