Key Points about Radiofrequency Ablation (RFA) for Varicose Veins

  • Radiofrequency ablation, also known as RFA, is a treatment for varicose veins using radiofrequency energy to close off varicose veins.
  • If you have larger veins or damaged or inflamed veins, your doctor may recommend RFA for varicose veins. 
  • Radiofrequency ablation can be performed in an office setting under local anesthesia so that you will go home after the procedure. 
  • You will wear compression stockings during the healing process.
  • Most people experience symptom relief with RFA for varicose veins. If the treatment is not effective, your doctor may recommend another treatment option.


Radiofrequency ablation is a minimally invasive technique to treat varicose veins. During RFA treatment, your doctor will use radiofrequency energy to heat and damage a vein’s wall, which will close off the varicose vein. The vein will be absorbed in the tissue, and blood will be diverted to nearby healthy veins.

Candidates for radiofrequency ablation for varicose veins

You may be a candidate for RFP for varicose veins in the following cases:

  • You have larger veins
  • You have damaged or inflamed varicose veins

Preparing for radiofrequency ablation for varicose veins

Your doctor will give you specific instructions to follow before the procedure.

Inform your doctor if you:

  • Are pregnant, or you could be pregnant
  • Are breastfeeding
  • Drink alcohol or smoke regularly
  • Are allergic to any medications

Tell your care team about all medications, including OTC medicines and herbal supplements you are taking. Your doctor will tell you if you need to stop taking some medicines.

Your care team will outline what you can eat or drink before the procedure.

Expectations during radiofrequency ablation for varicose veins

Radiofrequency ablation for varicose veins can be performed in an office setting under local anesthesia or a mild sedative. While the procedure takes approximately one hour, plan to be at the doctor’s office for one to three hours to allow for recovery.

During RFA treatment, your doctor will insert a catheter into the affected vein through a small incision in the skin. Radiofrequency energy is slowly sent through the catheter into the damaged part of the vein. The heat causes the diseased vein to die, and the blood flow will be diverted to nearby health veins near the diseased one. After a short period, the old vein will be absorbed into the surrounding tissue. 

When the treatment is completed, the catheter will be removed, and your care team will apply pressure to the insertion site to stop bleeding.

Risks associated with radiofrequency ablation for varicose veins

While radiofrequency ablation for varicose veins is generally safe, complications can occur. Complications may include bleeding, infection, blood clots, damage to the nerves in the treated area, irritation above the treated vein.

Recovering from radiofrequency ablation for varicose veins

After RFA for varicose veins, you will go home following the treatment and recover quickly. Your doctor will instruct you to wear compression stockings for a week or more. You may also be instructed to elevate the leg after treatment to reduce your likelihood of bruising. 

Light walking will be encouraged during recovery, but intense exercise should be avoided until your provider clears you.

Your care team will schedule a duplex ultrasound during the recovery process to ensure the vein has closed.

Results of radiofrequency ablation for varicose veins

RFA for varicose veins effectively destroys painful, unsightly varicose veins in 85 to 90 percent of people. If a vein does not close after FRA treatment, your doctor may try another ablation or another varicose vein procedure. 

If you experience any of the following symptoms after RFA, please contact your provider right away:

  • Fever over 100.4 degrees F
  • Chest pain
  • Trouble breathing
  • Sign of infection at the insertion site.
  • Severe numbness, tingling pain, or swelling in the affected leg.

When to seek care

If you think you may need a radiofrequency ablation for varicose veins, start by voicing your concerns and symptoms to your primary care provider. From there, your doctor may suggest seeing a cardiologist for more specialized treatment.

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