Victoria Vein Clinic

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Radiofrequency Ablation


RADIOFREQUENCY CLOSURE (RF) is used to block off a main saphenous vein by passing a radiofrequency probe up the vein introduced through a puncture needle under local anaesthetic with ultrasound guidance. It has been in use for over 15 years in the USA and Europe. It was introduced into Australia by our group in 1998. Results published world wide show a low risk of complications and excellent medium-term results. Both legs can be treated at the one session. Visible varicose veins are usually treated by ultrasound-guided sclerotherapy (UGS) either at the same time or some 2-4 weeks later when they have decreased in size.

What are the advantages and disadvantages for RF?


  • Minimal discomfort.
  • No admission to hospital or general anaesthesia.
  • Minimal time off work or interference with normal home duties.
  • Both legs can be treated at the one session.
  • Surface tributaries are treated at the same session with UGS.


  • A further session for UGS is frequently required 2-3 weeks later when the veins have become collapsed and smaller.
  • Injected veins may remain inflamed for several weeks and patience is required to allow this to settle.

What should you do before RF?

  • Do not shave your legs.
  • Do not apply moisturiser to your legs on the day of treatment.
  • Wear slacks or loose trousers and sandals or loose shoes to allow for the thickness of the bandages and compression garment.
  • Preoperative sedation is not required.

What happens during RF?

  • A sonographer or doctor will mark out veins to be treated
  • Anaesthetic paste is spread along the skin over the vein and left for 30 minutes to reduce discomfort from further injections.
  • The procedure is performed with you lying on a treatment couch that is tilted at stages through the treatment.
  • The vein is punctured through an anaesthetized site at about the knee for great saphenous reflux and back of calf for small saphenous reflux.
  • A fine wire is passed up the vein, a long fine tube is passed over the wire, and the RF probe is introduced through the tube.
  • Local anaesthetic is infiltrated around the vein at several levels through the anaesthetized skin directed by ultrasound using a fine needle.
  • The RF tip is precisely positioned just below the end of the saphenous vein using ultrasound guidance.
  • The probe is activated and withdrawn in segments down the full length of the vein. The procedure involves minimal discomfort.
  • A compression garment is applied after treatment.

What should you do after RF?

  • Walk for 15 minutes immediately after treatment.
  • Arrange for someone to drive you home or go home by taxi - it is essential that the patient does not drive or take public transport on the day of treatment. Driving can resume on the following day.
  • Walk as much as possible, at least 15 minutes per day. Whenever sitting, elevate the legs if possible.
  • Wear the compression garment continuously overnight and remove to have a shower next day. Then wear the compression garment through the day and remove it at night. Continue this for approximately 7 days or longer if pain develops after it is discarded.
  • Maintain normal daytime activities and avoid standing still for long periods. Resume normal exercise activities within 24-36 hours.
  • Avoid flights of greater than 4 hours duration for 4 weeks after treatment. If travel is unavoidable, then the flight should be covered by subcutaneous heparin injections given before departure and after arrival. Avoid treatment for 2 weeks after returning from a long flight
  • A check ultrasound scan will be arranged within a few days after treatment to ensure that the treated vein is occluded, determine whether any further veins require treatment and exclude the small risk of deep vein occlusion.
  • Bring your compression garment to every follow-up visit.

What can you expect following RF?

The following features are expected. They are not a cause for concern although they should be reported at review:

  • Mild pain persists for several days and shows that the treatment is working. The degree is related to the initial size of the veins. Pain is usually improved by walking or by Panadol or Nurofen. Soreness can occur behind the knee from rubbing by the bandage.
  • Discolouration and tender lumps over tributaries treated by UGS are usual early on. They usually disappear within 4-6 weeks. This indicates that treatment has been successful. Lumps may need to be pricked to let out "trapped blood".
  • Phlebitis or inflammation can occur at any time after treatment of tributaries by UGS due to reaction to the sclerosant. It is treated by further compression and regular walking. It does not represent infection and does not require treatment with antibiotics.
  • Migraine symptoms. Patients with a history of migraine headaches occasionally develop prodromal visual symptoms within a few minutes after treatment. Patients may wish to take their usual migraine treatment an hour or so prior to treatment in the hope of preventing this.
  • Recurrence. Treated veins can reopen or new veins can develop. For this reason, ultrasound surveillance is offered at yearly intervals so that recurrent veins can be detected and easily treated by UGS before they become too large.

What are the possible complications from RF?

Complications can occur even with perfect technique.

  • Deep vein thrombosis. Clots extending into the deep veins can occur. This potentially serious complication is very uncommon if the protocol of compression and regular daily walking is followed. Minor clots develop in deep veins in less than 2% of our patients. If this is demonstrated on the postoperative scan then you may require treatment with daily heparin injections until further scans show the clot is resolving.
  • Nerve damage. Damage to surface sensory nerve can occur but this usually returns to normal within weeks to months. Persisting numbness is an occasional late event. This problem is more common after surgery. Damage can rarely occur to nerves behind the knee causing motor damage.
  • Skin burns have been reported but have never been encountered in our practice.
  • Stroke Of the tens of thousands of these procedures performed worldwide each year there has been no recorded case of a stroke. This could occur with any form of treatment.

Please Note

Medicare has restriction on the item number for Sclerotherapy (item 32500). A maximum of 6 treatments in a 12 month period is permitted by Medicare. You may require more treatment sessions but there will be no further rebate from Medicare if within the 12 month cycle. Please note if you have had Endovenous RF Closure and/or Ultrasound Guided Sclerotherapy the restriction also applies.

We advise you contact Medicare to enquire further. General Patient Enquiries - Phone 132 011

Subject to change