Varicose veins are a disturbance of the circulatory system. They are typically characterized by a bulging of the walls of superficial veins. These are most commonly found in the legs. Varicose veins are also associated with fluid retention in the legs. If left untreated, this disease can become chronic and lead to other conditions such as ulcers.

Besides traditional surgical intervention (stripping of the saphenous vein) you can intervene with radio-frequency ablation. We spoke with Dr. Elisa Casabianca, the vascular surgeon in Humanitas.


What is radio-frequency ablation?

“It is a minimally invasive procedure of the latest generation with many advantages over traditional surgery as proven by the latest research in the field of venous insufficiency, which is a very common problem but often overlooked.

Radiofrequency thermal ablation involves the inclusion of a micro catheter through a simple puncture under local anesthesia to a point previously mapped with ultrasound analysis. Once you reach the correct position, the probe emits a wave energy (RF) that causes the closure of the diseased vein (ablation) by excluding it from circulation.


What are the benefits of this procedure?

“The technique is safe and uses respectable and non-invasive methods. The benefits for patients are numerous: the treatment is ambulatory, conducted using local anesthesia and associated with very small millimeter incisions in the thigh and leg to remove any unsightly varicose veins. The lack of surgical cuts also means there is an absence of sutures and hematomas. The patient can move immediately after treatment and can resume normal daily activities within a couple of days. The differences are huge compared to the traditional approach. The need to surgically remove the diseased vein involves multiple surgical incisions, the most important of them in the groin. This presents the risk of infection and the certainty of developing bruises along the thigh and leg, requiring a few weeks to resolve.


Who can undergo varicose vein treatment with radio-frequency ablation?

“Virtually all patients with venous insufficiency. There is no age limit, as long as the patients anatomical configuration permits it. It is up to the specialist to assess which patients may benefit most from this procedure and for which it is most appropriate to perform traditional stripping or other types of treatment. In general, radio-frequency ablation is effective, minimally invasive and therefore desirable. It is also suitable for those patients who cannot afford traditional surgery.”