September 23, 2021
When it comes to modern varicose vein treatments, endovenous ablation is the most effective available option. This method works by removing the blockages in truncal veins that cause pressure to build up and develop into varicose veins. We often use the metaphor of rivers and tributaries: if a river is blocked, the tributaries then back up with water and eventually burst their banks. Our veins work in very much the same way.
There are two types of endovenous ablation: radiofrequency ablation (RFA) and laser vein ablation. While you can find a lot of information about these two techniques, you might be left wondering which one you are most likely to benefit from.
How do the treatments differ?
On a surface level, RFA and laser treatment operate in a very similar way. They are both minimally invasive and involve the insertion of a catheter using heat to close the vein. The difference is that RFA uses radio waves to create heat, while laser vein removal uses lasers. Simply put, one uses sound and the other uses light to create heat.
Laser vein removal relies on your consultant to manually calculate the correct area to apply the heat to the vein, whereas this is done automatically during RFA. It is important to be as accurate as possible during the procedure, as too much heat can cause burning, while too little will not close the vein. It is thanks to this level of accuracy that RFA delivers the best results and why it’s the method we employ at UKVC.
In both treatments, the vein then fades into the body shortly after the procedure.
What are practitioners saying?
In 2015, a survey conducted by the American Venous Forum found that most vein specialists preferred RFA to laser vein ablation.
Out of 129 responses, 79% of practitioners stated they preferred to treat patients using RFA rather than laser vein ablation.
When asked which treatment resulted in the highest level of patient satisfaction, 57% of respondents stated they believed that RFA had a higher level of satisfaction, compared to only 24% who said the same about laser treatment. It is worth bearing in mind that this is from the perspective of specialists rather than patients, so your experience may well differ.
What Are the Recovery Times?
The recovery time for both treatments will depend on the patient; most can resume their usual activities straight away, and many choose to head back to work on the same day. Others may need a few days to feel comfortable getting back on their feet and choose to bring someone along who can drive them home following treatment. You’ll be advised to wear compression stockings for 1-2 weeks to help the blood flow while your legs heal.
During your recovery, it’s important to monitor your progress, so your practitioner will schedule a follow-up appointment with you to ensure your body is healing as it should. While both procedures carry a very low risk of complications, the recovery period for laser vein removal is more likely to show some side effects.
Laser vein removal is sometimes considered harsher than RFA and can result in bruising, discolouration or scarring, leading to a more uncomfortable recovery time. It’s important to take this into account if you are looking for a gentler experience, as RFA will usually ensure a more consistent result and therefore easier recovery.
Which is for me?
While both radiofrequency ablation and laser vein removal have their benefits, evidence shows that RFA has a higher level of satisfaction from practitioners and patients alike, and offers a smoother recovery process. This is why the experts at the UK Vein Clinic have chosen RFA as their preferred treatment for endovenous ablation. If you are interested in learning more about RFA, you can read about it on our website here.