Deep venous thrombosis after saphenous endovenous radiofrequency ablation: is it predictable?

Ann Vasc Surg. 2014 Apr;28(3):679-85. doi: 10.1016/j.avsg.2013.08.012. Epub 2013 Nov 7.


Background: Endovenous radiofrequency ablation (RFA) is a safe and effective treatment for varicose veins caused by saphenous reflux. Deep venous thrombosis (DVT) is a known complication of this procedure. The purpose of this study is to describe the frequency of DVT after RFA and the associated predisposing factors.

Methods: A retrospective analysis was performed using prospectively collected data from December 2008 to December 2011; a total of 277 consecutive office-based RFA procedures were performed at a single institution using the VNUS ClosureFast catheter (VNUS Medical Technologies, San Jose, CA). Duplex ultrasonography scans were completed 2 weeks postprocedure in all patients. Risk factors assessed for the development of DVT included: great versus small saphenous vein (SSV) treated, right versus left side treated, number of radiofrequency cycles used, hypercoagulable state, history of DVT, tobacco use, medications (i.e., oral contraceptives, aspirin, warfarin, and clopidogrel), and vein diameter at the junction of the superficial and deep systems.

Results: Seventy-two percent of the patients were women, 56% were treated on the right side, and 86% were performed on the great saphenous vein (GSV). The mean age was 54 ± 14 years (range: 23-88 years). Three percent of patients had a preprocedure diagnosis of hypercoagulable state, and 8% had a history of previous DVT. On postprocedural ultrasound, thrombus protrusion into the deep system without occlusion (endovenous heat-induced thrombosis) was present in 11 patients (4%). DVT, as defined by thrombus protrusion with complete occlusion of the femoral or popliteal vein, was identified in 2 patients (0.7%). Previous DVT was the only factor associated with postprocedural DVT (P = 0.018). Although not statistically significant, there was a trend toward a higher risk of DVT in SSV-treated patients. Factors associated with endovascular heat-induced thrombosis alone were male sex (P = 0.02), SSV treatment (P = 0.05), aspirin use (P = 0.008), and factor V Leiden deficiency (P = 0.01).

Conclusions: The use of RFA to treat patients with symptoms caused by saphenous reflux involves a small but definite risk of DVT. This study shows that the risk of post-RFA DVT is greater in patients with previous DVT, with a trend toward an increased risk in patients having treatment of the SSV. Periprocedural anticoagulation may be considered in this subset to reduce the risk of DVT after RFA. Thrombus protrusion without DVT was found to be more likely in patients with hypercoagulability, male sex, SSV treatment, and aspirin use. Additional prospective studies are required to analyze these and other factors that may predict thrombotic events after endovenous RFA.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Catheter Ablation / adverse effects*
  • Chicago
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Assessment
  • Risk Factors
  • Saphenous Vein / diagnostic imaging
  • Saphenous Vein / surgery*
  • Tertiary Care Centers
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Ultrasonography, Doppler, Duplex
  • Varicose Veins / diagnosis
  • Varicose Veins / surgery*
  • Venous Thrombosis / diagnosis
  • Venous Thrombosis / etiology*
  • Young Adult