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J Vasc Surg. 2004 Dec;40(6):1166-73.

Ultrasound findings after radiofrequency ablation of the great saphenous vein: descriptive analysis.

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  • 1Jobst Vascular Center, Toledo, Ohio 43606, USA.



As an emerging endovascular alternative to ligation and stripping of the incompetent greater saphenous vein (GSV), radiofrequency ablation was monitored with ultrasound scanning to evaluate anatomic results. Neovascularization and inflammation are potential consequences that lead to the appearance of small vessels. The natural history of the below-knee untreated GSV segment may be important in our understanding of ongoing chronic venous disease. An ultrasound follow-up study was conducted to determine the prevalence of small vessel networks, defined as veins and arteries less than 2 mm in diameter, adjacent to the saphenofemoral junction (SFJ); prevalence of small vessel networks adjacent to the treated GSV in the thigh; and fate of the below-knee untreated GSV distal to the ablated segment.


One hundred six extremities with radiofrequency ablation of the GSV for treatment of superficial venous insufficiency were followed up with high-resolution ultrasound imaging 4 to 25 months (median, 9 months) after the procedure. Ninety-three limbs had concomitant ligation and division of the SFJ and its tributaries, and 13 limbs underwent radiofrequency ablation without SFJ ligation. Ultrasound was used to evaluate patients for small vessel networks, and concomitant findings of small vessel networks and recanalization at the SFJ and adjacent to the treated GSV. The status of the below-knee segment of untreated GSV was evaluated for patency and reflux. Data analysis compared the findings in the ligation group with those in the no-ligation group, with the chi 2 test and Fisher exact test.


We found small vessel networks in 65% (n = 69) of extremities: 15% (n = 16) at the SFJ only, 26% (n = 28) in the thigh only, and 24% (n = 25) at both the SFJ and thigh, resulting in a small vessel network prevalence of 39% (n = 41) at the SJF and 50% (n = 53) in the thigh. The prevalence of small vessel networks at the SFJ was significantly less after radiofrequency ablation with SFJ ligation (34%, 32 of 93) than after radiofrequency ablation without ligation (69%, 9 of 13; P = .035). Small vessel networks and GSV recanalization at the SFJ was more common in patients undergoing radiofrequency ablation without ligation (46%, 6 of 13) than after radiofrequency ablation with ligation (14%, 13 of 93; P = .014). The prevalence of small vessel networks in the thigh was not affected by SFJ ligation. The below-knee GSV was patent in 79% (84 of 106), and 58% (61 of 106) demonstrated reflux, a decrease from the pre-radiofrequency ablation rate of 71% (75 of 106), possibly because thrombosis extended distally beyond the ablated segment in 16% (17 of 106) of the legs.


Small vessel networks were detected adjacent to or in connection with most of the radiofrequency ablation-treated GSVs. SFJ ligation was associated with fewer small vessel networks and proximal GSV recanalization. Most below-knee untreated GSV segments remained patent, and most exhibited reflux.

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