JOURNAL ARTICLE

Deep venous thrombosis after radiofrequency ablation of greater saphenous vein: a word of caution

Anil P Hingorani, Enrico Ascher, Natalia Markevich, Richard W Schutzer, Sreedhar Kallakuri, Alexander Hou, Suresh Nahata, William Yorkovich, Theresa Jacob
Journal of Vascular Surgery 2004, 40 (3): 500-4
15337880

PURPOSE: Radiofrequency ablation (RFA) of the greater saphenous vein (GSV; "closure") is a relatively new option for treatment of venous reflux. However, our initial enthusiasm for this minimally invasive technique has been tempered by our preliminary experience with its potentially lethal complication, deep venous thrombosis (DVT).

METHODS: Seventy-three lower extremities were treated in 66 patients with GSV reflux, between April 2003 and February 2004. There were 48 (73%) female patients and 18 (27%) male patients, with ages ranging from 26 to 88 years (mean, 62 +/- 14 years). RFA was combined with stab avulsion of varicosities in 55 (75%) patients and subfascial ligation of perforator veins in 6 (8%) patients. An ATL HDI 5000 scanner with linear 7-4 MHz probe and the SonoCT feature was used for GSV mapping and procedure guidance in all procedures. GSV diameter determined the size of the RFA catheter used. Veins less than 8 mm in diameter were treated with a 6F catheter (n = 54); an 8F catheter was used for veins greater than 8 mm in diameter (n = 19). The GSV was cannulated at the knee level. The tip of the catheter was positioned within 1 cm of the origin of the inferior epigastric vein (first GSV tributary). All procedures were carried out according to manufacturer guidelines.

RESULTS: All patients underwent venous duplex ultrasound scanning 2 to 30 days (mean, 10 +/- 6 days) after the procedure. The duplex scans documented occlusion of the GSV in 70 limbs (96%). In addition, DVT was found in 12 limbs (16%). Eleven patients (92%) had an extension of the occlusive clot filling the treated proximal GSV segment, with a floating tail beyond the patent inferior epigastric vein into the common femoral vein. Another patient developed acute occlusive clots in the calf muscle (gastrocnemius) veins. Eight patients were readmitted and received anticoagulation therapy. Four patients were treated with enoxaparin on an ambulatory basis. None of these patients had pulmonary embolism. Initially 3 patients with floating common femoral vein clots underwent inferior vena cava filter placement. Of the 19 limbs treated with the 8F RFA catheter, GSV clot extension developed in 5 (26%), compared with 7 of 54 (13%) limbs treated with the 6F RFA catheter (P =.3). No difference was found between the occurrence of DVT in patients who underwent the combined procedure (RFA and varicose vein excision) compared with patients who underwent GSV RFA alone (P =.7). No statistically significant differences were found in age or gender of patients with or without postoperative DVT (P = NS).

CONCLUSION: Patients who underwent combined GSV RFA and varicose vein excision did not demonstrate a higher occurrence of postoperative DVT compared with patients who underwent RFA alone. Early postoperative duplex scans are essential, and should be mandatory in all patients undergoing RFA of the GSV.

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