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Vein Center Frequently Asked Questions

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UW Health's vein care specialists in Madison, Wisconsin, provide a multidisciplinary approach to diagnosing and treating venous disease.


How does radiofrequency ablation (RFA) for treatment of venous disease work?


Advances in medicine make it possible for physicians to supplement surgical treatment with radiofrequency technology, leaving patients with minimal pain and scarring. With radiofrequency ablation, a small tube called a catheter is inserted into the vein(s). The catheter sends out radiofrequency energy that shrinks and seals the vein walls eliminating the main source of varicose vein reflux.


During a procedure, which can last up to 45 minutes, a physician targets a very strong burst of energy into the problem areas via catheter into the major diseased vein, making these veins seal and collapse.


Afterward, healthy veins in other parts of the leg restore normal blood flow to the leg, and with ablation  of the main diseased source of reflux, there can be shrinking of surrounding varicose and spider veins. Often, larger adjacent veins will be removed through small incisions, called stab avulsion phlebectomy. Often, minimal office treatments are required to complete treatment for veins that persist.


What are my options?


The first line treatment of varicose veins is a compression stocking. RFA is a second line treatment of varicose veins. However, more options are available to you, and your doctor will tailor an individual treatment plan best suited for your condition which may use one or a combination of venous reconstruction and stents or stab avulsion phlebectomy alone.


What should I expect following RFA? 
The number of treatments will vary for each individual and depend on the severity of the veins. Possible side effects include redness or swelling of the skin after treatment that should subside within a few days, lumpiness under the skin and discoloration that disappears up to six months after the treatment. New varicose veins can return later.


How soon can I return to activity?


Your doctor will advise you not to drive for 48 hours. After three to four days, you may resume walking and incorporate light/low-impact exercise. Higher-impact exercise, for example elliptical or biking, must be approved by your doctor, but usually can start two weeks after treatment.


Is tanning a concern with this form of treatment?


No. Tanning, or tan skin, is not a concern with this form of treatment.


Will my insurance cover the procedure?


Insurance might cover your procedure. Please consult your physician to determine coverage.