What is Endovenous Thermal Ablation?
Endovenous thermal ablation is a procedure where controlled heat is used to seal varicose veins.
More specifically, it is used to treat abnormal “saphenous veins”, which are the underlying cause of most cases of varicose veins. The saphenous veins are long, straight veins that course up the inside and back of the leg. When the valves in these veins start to fail, the blood is able to flow in the wrong direction back down then leg. This causes the pressure to build up, and leads to a chain reaction where other valves further down the leg start to fail as well. When this process of damage spreads to the veins that travel close to the skin, the veins dilate and elongate, causing visible varicose veins. These visible veins are therefore usually just the tip of the iceburg of what is actually happening inside the leg.
Treating abnormal “incompetent” saphenous veins is therefore a very important first step to ensure successful, durable results when treating varicose veins.
The traditional method of treating sapheneous veins was “stripping”. This involved an incision at the groin to disconnect the saphenous vein from the deeper veins. A wire or plastic “stripper” is then passed down the inside of the vein and a second incision is performed over the vein further down the leg. The vein is tied to the stripper, and pulled out of the leg.
This method has now been superseded by endovenous thermal ablation. The first version of the endovenous thermal ablation procedure used a laser to apply the heat, and is often referred to as endovenous laser ablation ("EVLA"), or simply "laser".
Another more recent method of heating the vein is with radiofrequency energy, which is known as “radiofrequency ablation” or “RFA”. This heats the vein in a more gentle and even fashion than laser, which leads to even less pain and bruising, yet with the same success rates.
An alternative method of treating abnormal saphenous veins is with VenaSeal “glue”.