Vascular surgery can correct problems and diseases of the circulatory system. The human circulatory system is made of arteries, which carry oxygenated blood to the organs and muscles, and veins, which carry the blood back to the heart. Arteries can develop narrowing or blockages, and can also develop aneurysms which are abnormal enlargements of arteries. Venous disease includes varicose veins of the lower extremities, and venous stasis ulcers, also involving the feet, ankles and legs. There are many vascular surgical procedures and treatments to address these problems.
Narrowing, or "stenosis" of arteries in the neck, called the carotid arteries, can lead to stroke. This narrowing can often be fixed surgically with a procedure called an endarterectomy. This involves surgically cleaning out this vessel. Most patients stay no longer than 2-3 days in the hospital after this procedure.
Narrowing or stenosis of arteries leading to the legs may cause cramping of the calves, thighs or buttocks. In patients with severe disease, patients may develop tissue loss or gangrene of the toes, feet or legs. These areas of arterial narrowing can often be corrected with bypass procedures or less invasive procedures such as angioplasty or stenting.
Aneurysms are abnormal enlargements of arteries which can be prone to rupture. Risk factors for aneurysms include smoking, high blood pressure, male gender, and family history. A common site for aneurysms is the aorta, the largest blood vessel in the body. If an aortic aneurysm ruptures, many patients do not survive. Aortic aneurysms can sometimes be found by your doctor on physical exam, or can be detected using ultrasound or CT scan imaging. Aortic aneurysms can be fixed or repaired using bypass techniques or minimally invasive, or “endovascular” techniques.
Over the last 10-14 years the field of vascular surgery has seen a distinct trend to more minimally invasive procedures, or "endovascular" techniques. Aortic aneurysms can be repaired through small groin incisions, with much lower operative risks. Most patients are able to go home from the hospital 1-2 days after their surgery. Similarly, blockages and narrowing of the leg arteries can be fixed using angioplasty and stents through tiny groin incisions, with patients going home the same day.
Venous disease includes varicose veins of the legs, which can also be treated with surgery or less invasive techniques. Venous disease also includes venous stasis ulcers, which require long term wound care, often by vascular specialists.
If any of the above problems sound familiar to you, call for a consultation or get a referral from your primary care physician for evaluation and treatment.