Looking at The Options: Radiofrequency Ablation vs. VenaSeal For Vein Disease
While “vein disease” is more of a blanket term, referring to everything from varicose veins to deep vein thrombosis (DVT), the effects are largely the same: poor or compromised circulation in the legs. In these cases the vein walls are unable to get blood that reaches the lower limbs back up to the heart, either because of blockage as in thrombosis, or inadequate pressure in cases of insufficiency.  This leads to pooling of blood, swelling, skin discoloration, pain, and discomfort.
The big question, then, for the many that suffer with varicose veins, DVT, or related conditions is what to do about it. Traditional approaches involve “vein stripping,” in which problem veins are surgically removed, allowing blood to essentially “re-route” themselves through healthier pathways. While effective, this approach is quite invasive and there are certainly risks of complications.
Luckily, two newer treatments have come to the fore: radiofrequency ablation (RFA) and a just-approved approach called VenaSeal. But what do these treatments entail? How do they compare to one another? Let’s take a look.
Strategic Heat & Scarring With Radiofrequency Ablation
Unlike traditional vein stripping, RFA is much less invasive. Where the latter requires several incisions alongside the problem vein (which, if done improperly, can lead to nerve damage or other complications), this approach only requires one, smaller incision. The doctor employs ultrasound to guide everything and employs a special catheter that uses radio waves to heat up the affected vein. Doctors ensure that the area is numbed, so the patient doesn’t feel pain.
But how does it work? The heated-up catheter causes failing vein walls to contract and eventually scar. This seals off the problem areas, and, as with stripping, the blood finds healthier ways to travel back to the heart. Over time this leads to cessation of symptoms.
What Makes RFA a Good Choice?
There are a number of reasons RFA is recommended. Here’s a quick breakdown:
- Easily Tolerated: This is a relatively quick, minimally-invasive procedure performed in an outpatient setting. Patients go home the same day.
- Quick Recovery: Recovery is relatively quick and comparatively less uncomfortable than more invasive surgeries; patients will need to wear compression stockings for about one week after the procedure.
- Highly Successful: Numerous studies have shown this to be very effective in treating vein disease, with relatively few complications or unsuccessful treatments.  Notably, there’s less bruising with RFA than vein stripping.
- Insurance: Most insurance plans will cover the costs of treatment.
Clearly, there’s a lot to be said for RFA, which is why so many have found relief with it.
VenaSeal: The Cutting Edge (With Even Less Cut!)
The latest in vein disease treatment is VenaSeal. Instead of relying on heat like RFA, this approach essentially glues problem veins shut. After application of anesthetic, a single, small incision is made, and, using ultrasound guidance, a specialized catheter is used to deliver the adhesive substance to the area. Like with other approaches, the idea is that blood gets re-routed to healthier veins, leading to immediate relief from symptoms.
What makes VenaSeal so special? There are a couple advantages:
- Less Fuss: The impact of the procedure is minimal and well-tolerated. Patients walk away from treatment the same day, with little more than a bandage needed for the site of incision.
- Easy Recovery: Unlike RFA, there’s no need for patients to wear compression stockings after treatment. Patients return to their usual routines the same day!
- Less Pain: Compared to other treatments, VenaSeal patients experience less pain and discomfort during the procedure and afterwards.
It should be noted, though, that since this is an emerging treatment option, it’s not yet covered by insurance. That said, clinics that offer it can figure out payment plans for those that need them.
The Right Choice Is Your Choice
Ultimately, the choice of which way to go when it comes to treatment is one made in consultation between patient and doctor. A good doctor will be able to explain the advantages and disadvantages of each approach and know what will offer the best possible outcome. No matter which way you go, though, the good news is that vein disease can be effectively and permanently treated. There’s no point in suffering with discomfort and other symptoms when viable solutions are out there.
If you’re interested in learning more about RFA or VenaSeal, talk to a Patient Care Manager at Hamilton Vein. They’re knowledgeable about treatment options and can connect you to the country’s best and most dedicated experts. Find out more about these Texas-based treatment centers by calling their Houston office at (281) 565-0033, the Austin location at (512) 551-1403, or San Antonio at (210) 504-4304 any time!
- Beckman, J. A. 2002. “Diseases Of The Veins”. Circulation106 (17): 2170-2172. Ovid Technologies (Wolters Kluwer Health). doi:10.1161/01.cir.0000036740.75461.80.
- Weiss, M., Weiss, R., Bulter, D. F., Albertini, J. G., James, W. D. and Ratner, D. 2016. “Radiofrequency Ablation Therapy For Varicose Veins: Overview, Technology, Histologic Findings”. 2018. Medscape.Com. Accessed March 5 2018. https://emedicine.medscape.com/article/1085800-overview#a2.