How successful is vein ablation?
VNUS™ is a form of endovenous radiofrequency ablation used to treat incompetent saphenous veins, which are located just beneath the skin in the legs. Disease in these veins usually occurs as a result of dysfunctional or weak valves. Such valves are “incompetent” and cause a condition called venous reflux where the blood pools in the veins. The great saphenous vein and the small saphenous vein are part of the superficial vein system, and are located below the skin but above the muscles.
The VNUS technology was approved by the Food and Drug Administration, or the FDA, in 1999. During a VNUS closure procedure, a doctor will use a patented VNUS catheter. The catheter delivers radiofrequency energy into the damaged vein, causing it to heat up, seal off and eventually disintegrate. The goal of VNUS ablation, as with most types of varicose vein treatment, is to non-surgically eliminate a bad vein so that blood may flow through healthier veins. The entire process of VNUS treatment is tracked by the doctor by using an ultrasound device.
A VNUS closure procedure is typically performed while the patient is under local anesthesia, so no pain is experienced when the vein is treated. Sometimes medications such as Xanax or Valium may be used to relax the patient. The minimally invasive procedure is usually well tolerated by patients. The only point of entry necessary for the VNUS closure procedure is a small cut or puncture through which the radiofrequency catheter is positioned.
In some cases your physician may recommend removal of bulging surface varicose veins, using ambulatory phlebectomy, just after the VNUS ablation procedure is completed. In other cases sclerotherapy may be performed to treat residual surface veins.
After the treatment is completed, a bandage will be applied over the puncture site, followed by a compression stocking. The stocking is worn for 1 to 2 weeks. The doctor will ask the patient to walk in the office area for a period of about 20 minutes. Walking serves to increase vein blood flow in the legs, which reduces pressure in the veins. Normal daily activities can usually be resumed within 1 or 2 days after VNUS treatment. Pain and bruising, usually mild, may be present for several days. Other more significant side effects are possible but uncommon. The physician may recommend a follow-up ultrasound several days after the VNUS procedure to check on the vein that was treated.
VNUS has a high long-term success rate. Nonetheless, new varicose veins may occur because of genetic predisposition. Periodic maintenance treatment can help keep your legs in good shape.
Please note that in recent years the creators of VNUS have changed the name of the procedure to Venefit™ Targeted Endovenous Therapy. Contact a varicose vein treatment center if you would like to learn more about VNUS technology and to see if this may be a good treatment for your particular vein condition.
Reviewed by Steven E. Zimmet, MD, RVT, FACPh
Editor of Phlebology
President, Zimmet Vein & Dermatology
Past-President, American College of Phlebology