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Varicose veins - New Treatment Helps Varicose Veins With Radiowaves
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Varicose veins

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Cardiovascular System


New Treatment Helps Varicose Veins With Radiowaves

A new technique uses radiofrequency energy to help shrivel varicose veins -- the unsightly, painful bulges that appear on the legs when blood pools in the veins. People who have undergone the office-based procedure can return to normal activities almost immediately, rather than after a 3-week recuperation period that typically follows vein stripping, or surgical removal of the veins. The procedure also leaves fewer, less noticeable scars than vein stripping. It's a more attractive alternative. In the new technique, a small incision is made behind the knee and a catheter (a hollow flexible tube) is threaded into the vein. A radiofrequency probe attached to the catheter releases energy and heat inside the vein, causing it to shrink and close off.

Since varicose veins are caused by a backflow of blood in the saphenous vein (the largest vein in the leg) and smaller branch veins, the closure should remedy the leg fatigue, pain, and itchiness that frequently plague patients. Larger veins should no longer be a problem, although existing spider veins (tiny veins close to the skin surface) will not necessarily disappear. Phlebectomy, a procedure to remove the branch veins, can be done at the same time as the radiology technique.

With the new technique, unlike vein stripping, there is no permanent scarring, no need for general anesthetic, no radiation and relatively little blood loss. It is far less invasive than traditional vein stripping,'' and it is comparable in price. About 25 centers in the United States now have radiologists who perform this technique.

25th Annual Scientific Meeting of the Society of Cardiovascular and Interventional Radiology, held in San Diego, California March 27, 2000. Scheduled to be published in the Journal of Vascular and Intervention Radiology in the near future.


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