Skip to Content
Home > Health Information > Health Library > Varicose Veins: Radiofrequency Ablation
Radiofrequency ablation is a minimally invasive treatment for varicose veins. (Ablation means a doctor uses heat to damage tissue, which makes scar tissue form. This scar tissue closes the vein.) This technique uses radiofrequency energy (instead of laser energy) to heat up and damage the wall inside a vein. This usually closes off a varicose vein in the leg.
To treat a varicose vein, radiofrequency energy is directed through a thin tube (catheter) inserted through a small incision in the vein. It can be used on large veins in the leg and can be done in an office setting using local anesthesia or a mild sedative. You will be able to walk following the treatment and recovery typically is short.
After treatment, you will wear compression stockings for 1 week or more. To follow up, your doctor will use duplex ultrasound to make sure that the vein is closed.
Possible side effects of radiofrequency ablation include:
The more experience your doctor has had with radiofrequency, the less risk you are likely to have. Talk to your doctor about how often these side effects happen in his or her practice.
Radiofrequency ablation closes off varicose veins in about 88 out of 100 people. That means it doesn't work in about 12 out of 100 people.footnote 1
For help deciding whether to have a procedure for varicose veins, see:
If you are thinking of radiofrequency ablation treatment, consider some questions to ask about varicose vein treatment. These questions include: How much do the exam and treatment cost? How many treatments does the doctor think you will need?
Health Tools help you make wise health decisions or take action to improve your health.
Van den Bos R, et al. (2009). Endovenous therapies of lower extremity varicosities: A meta-analysis. Journal of Vascular Surgery, 49(1): 230–239.
Other Works Consulted
Khilnani NM, et al. (2010). Multi-society consensus quality improvement guidelines for the treatment of lower extremity superficial venous insufficiency with endovenous thermal ablation from the Society of Interventional Radiology, Cardiovascular Interventional Radiological Society of Europe, American College of Phlebology, and Canadian Interventional Radiology Association. Journal of Vascular and Interventional Radiology, 21(1): 14–31.
Current as of: March 4, 2020
Author: Healthwise StaffMedical Review: E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal MedicineAdam Husney, MD - Family MedicineDavid A. Szalay, MD - Vascular Surgery
Current as of: March 4, 2020
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine & Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine & David A. Szalay, MD - Vascular Surgery
To learn more about Healthwise, visit Healthwise.org.
© 1995-2020 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.
Our interactive Decision Points guide you through making key health decisions by combining medical information with your personal information.
You'll find Decision Points to help you answer questions about:
Get started learning more about your health!
Our Interactive Tools can help you make smart decisions for a healthier life. You'll find personal calculators and tools for health and fitness, lifestyle checkups, and pregnancy.
Feeling under the weather?
Use our interactive symptom checker to evaluate your symptoms and determine appropriate action or treatment.
See important information from Billings Clinic on Non-discrimination and Interpreter Services.
Billings Clinic is proud to be an equal opportunity/affirmative action (EOE/AA) e-verify employer.