Page last updated at 15:03 GMT, Tuesday, 30 September 2008 16:03 UK

Radio waves used to treat veins

Varicose vein operation
The procedure frees up theatre space allowing more people to be treated

A pioneering treatment for varicose veins is being used on patients at a hospital in Cornwall.

Previous treatment involved a general anaesthetic to surgically remove the veins, followed by a lengthy recovery.

Now a "walk-in, walk-out" procedure, which takes less than an hour, is being used on patients at the West Cornwall Hospital in Penzance.

The technique works by heating the varicose vein with a probe, using radio frequencies which seal the vein off.

Kenneth Woodburn, the hospital's consultant vascular surgeon, said a scan was used throughout to monitor the procedure.

It's amazing - I'm in no pain whatsoever
Sharon Watts, patient

"The main advantage is it avoids a general anaesthetic and as a result has a lower complication rate than conventional surgery," he told BBC News.

"From the patients' perspective, its a walk-in, walk-out procedure that takes not more than an hour."

Mr Woodburn said it also frees up theatre space, making it possible to treat more people.

Sharon Watts from Helston, who was given the pioneering treatment, said she was able to walk within minutes of the procedure.

"It's amazing - I'm in no pain whatsoever and my legs feel fine," she said.

The technique will now be used in other parts of the Royal Cornwall Hospitals Trust.


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