Minimally Invasive Vein Ablation Treatment

Endovenous (or vein) ablation is a minimally invasive outpatient treatment for venous insufficiency that is performed using ultrasound guidance. After applying local anesthetic to the skin over the vein, an interventional radiologist inserts a thin tube known as a catheter, about the size of a strand of spaghetti, into the abnormal saphenous vein. Through this catheter, laser or radiofrequency energy is applied to the inside of the vein to seal it closed.

Reflux within one of the saphenous veins can lead to pooling in its tributaries (branches), causing visible varicose veins to develop and more blood for the surrounding normal veins to send back toward the heart. By closing the abnormal vein, the varicose veins—which are close to the skin—shrink and improve in appearance. In addition, once the diseased vein is closed, the surrounding healthy veins are no longer burdened by the leaking blood flow. Other healthy veins take over to carry blood from the leg, re-establishing normal flow.

illustration of vein ablation

Benefits of Vein Ablation Treatment

  • The treatment takes less than an hour and provides immediate relief of symptoms.
  • Immediate return to normal activity with little or no pain. There may be minor soreness or bruising, which can be treated with over-the-counter pain relievers.
  • No scars or stitches – because the procedure does not require a surgical incision, just a nick in the skin, about the size of a pencil tip.
  • High success rate and low recurrence rate compared to surgery.
  • The success rate ranges for vein ablation ranges from 93-97 percent.
photo of leg with varicose veins before treatmentBefore Vein Ablation, photo courtesy of Dr. Robert Min photo of leg after varicose vein treatmentAfter Vein Ablation, photo courtesy of Dr. Robert Min

Insurance

Almost all insurance carriers cover a consultation with an interventional radiologist to assess a patient with a venous disorder. Venous insufficiency treatments are covered benefits in most plans, based on medical necessity. If you require treatment, your interventional radiologist can interact with your insurance company to assess your coverage.

Surgical Treatment of Veins

Traditionally, surgical ligation—with or without vein stripping—was the treatment for varicose veins. This procedure can be more painful and often have a longer recovery time than endovenous ablation. In addition, it is associated with a higher rate of recurrence.

Second Opinion

Patients considering surgical treatment should also get a second opinion from an interventional radiologist to ensure they know all of their treatment options. You can ask for a referral from your doctor, call the radiology department of any hospital and ask for interventional radiology or visit the doctor finder link at the top of this page to locate a doctor near you.