The Crazy Technology That Truly Revolutionized Varicose Vein Care

The Crazy Technology That Truly Revolutionized Varicose Vein Care

How Radiofrequency Revolutionized the Varicose Vein World

Revolutionized is the essential word.

It implies first.

Radiofrequency technology changed everything in the vein world.

Other technologies followed on the shoulders of the visionary giants who pioneered radiofrequency ablation for the treatment of varicose veins.

A few other examples of modern technology that have changed the world are cellphone technology, personal computing, satellite communications, the internet, and transistors.

In the vein realm, once doctors no longer had to strip varicose veins there was no going back.

Why Radiofrequency Deserves the Prize for Being The Game Changer for Vein Treatment

Before radiofrequency technology was adapted to close veins, all that doctors could do was strip veins.

Stripping traditionally required general anesthesia and a hospital stay. It was extremely painful. Recurrences were common.

The first generation of radiofrequency catheter was given FDA clearance in March 1999.

That was the initial breakthrough. Without requiring general anesthesia, varicose vein procedures could be done entirely in the office setting.

General anesthesia was no longer required so you didn’t have to go to the hospital!

  • No more big scars.
  • Less pain and bruising.
  • Return to work and continue daily activities right away.

The Technique for Radiofrequency Explained Simply

Radiofrequency and laser both work by heating the veins shut.

Over time, your body absorbs them.

This stops the blood from flowing the wrong way.

The radiofrequency catheter is inserted into the saphenous vein under just local anesthesia. Only a couple of needle pinches are necessary to numb the target vein.

The original radiofrequency catheter was pulled out of the leg vein very slowly.

A thermocouple was used to ensure that the heat generated from the catheter was 85 degrees Celsius.

The old catheter often got clogged with clotted blood around it. A heparin drip was used but it was not unusual to have to withdraw the catheter, wipe the clot off, and reinsert it.

Pullback time of the catheter out of the leg was excruciatingly slow at 1 mm every second. It was technically difficult for the doctor to maintain just the right pullback speed.

A new radiofrequency catheter was introduced in 2007.

It did not clot.

It is withdrawn at 7 cm every twenty seconds.

Modern radiofrequency methods are the fastest and easiest method of closing a saphenous vein.

What About Laser Varicose Vein Therapy?

A few years after the FDA approved laser for closing saphenous veins.

Laser was FDA in January 2002, about three years after radiofrequency was cleared.

Radiofrequency was the pioneering technology for varicose veins.

The initial English literature paper about laser for varicose veins was written by Navarro, Min and Bone.

It was published in February 2001 in Dermatologic Surgery.

Robert Min, a co-inventor of laser for the treatment of varicose veins, worked as a consultant for Diomed. That company that did the initial work with laser treatment for varicose veins. He is given most of the credit for developing laser for varicose veins.

Diomed later sued Angiodynamics over their patent 777 for the laser technology but later went bankrupt. A flurry of lawsuits among these laser rivals around this time continue over laser technology for varicose vein treatment.

The laser companies, VNUS, Biolitic, Vascular Solutions and Total Vein Solutions, lawsuits against each other made their attorneys rich.

The Latest Generation of Radiofrequency for Varicose Veins

With the new system, the catheter is withdrawn and heats the targeted vein in seven cm segments. The catheter core temperature is monitored by the generator.

Adjustments are continuously made to keep the catheter temperature at 120 degrees C (240 degrees Fahrenheit)

In contrast, the laser fiber temperature exceeds 720 degrees C (1328 degrees Fahrenheit.) That’s over five times hotter than radiofrequency.

This extra heat results in carbonization (charcoal) and often burns right through the vessel wall. (Carbonization makes it even hotter!)

These perforations result in more pain, bruising and tissue damage. Anti-inflammatory medication is often required for over ten days after laser.

Many people cannot tolerate the high doses of anti inflammatories required after the laser procedure.

In contrast, after the radiofrequency procedure, pain medicine is rarely required at all.


So, the winner is …

Radiofrequency wins the prize for revolutionizing the care and treatment of varicose veins.

That’s from a board certified vascular surgeon who specializes in veins. Someone who is not paid as a consultant to endorse anything.

That means no conflicts of interest. Just an honest opinion and a lifetime of experience treating veins.

Radiofrequency beat laser for FDA approval by almost three years.

This started a transformation from surgeons stripping varicose veins in the hospital to minimally invasive treatments done with only local anesthesia. It is done entirely in the office setting.

Endovenous techniques use heat to seal the targeted vein shut instead of ripping it out of the body.

They are far less invasive and are well tolerated.

The clinical results with the newest technologies are vastly superior to stripping veins.

There is also a lower risk of complications.

The long-term efficacy is known to over ten years.

Give it a try.

Your varicose veins will only get worse over time.

Our laser center in Pittsburgh now uses radiofrequency almost entirely for the reasons described in this article.

Call us today at 724-969-0600 to learn more about these exciting new technologies to rid you of your varicose veins.

About The Author

Dr. John Happel

Dr. John Happel has been in practice as a surgeon since 1986 in the Pittsburgh region. He specializes in vascular surgery and has subspecialized in the treatment of varicose and spider veins since 1999. Dr. Happel is board certified in vascular surgery and recertified in vascular surgery in 2012. He was chosen in 1985 to fulfill the position for the vascular surgical fellowship at the world renowned Mayo Clinic.