What does a vascular surgeon do?
A vascular surgeon treats blood vessel problems. These problems may involve blood vessels in all parts of the body, with the exception of the brain, heart and lungs.
Arteries are blood vessels that take blood from the heart to the other parts of the body. The blood is propelled through the arteries by the pulsation of the heart. Blood carried in the arteries is oxygenated by the lungs. In diagrams of the body, oxygenated blood is usually red. Oxygen is required by all body organs to function. When blood flow in the arteries is impaired or blocked entirely, it may result in organ injury.
Arteries typically develop 2 types of problems: atherosclerosis and aneurysm. Common arterial problems are aortic aneurysm, carotid stenosis, and peripheral arterial disease (PAD). Other arterial problems we treat include visceral aneurysms (aneurysms of the arteries supplying the intestine or kidneys), renal artery stenosis (narrowing of the arteries to the kidneys), mesenteric ischemia (lack of blood flow to the intestine), dissection (tear in the wall of an artery), carotid body tumor (vascular tumor near the carotid artery), and arterial trauma.
Veins are blood vessels that take blood from the body back to the heart. The blood in veins is devoid of oxygen, so veins are typically colored blue in diagrams of the body. Blood is pushed through the venous system by the action of the muscles surrounding the veins, and also by gravity. Unlike arteries, veins have valves, that also help with the movement of blood back towards the heart.
Veins have 2 types of problems: venous incompetence (valve problems) and clots. Typical vein problems include: varicose veins, venous stasis disease and stasis ulcer (chronic skin damage in the legs), leg edema (swelling), deep venous thrombosis (DVT), thrombophlebitis.
Board certified vascular surgeons perform both open and endovascular (minimally-invasive, x-ray guided) surgery. Because of this multi-modality training, they are uniquely able to customize the surgical approach, frequently combining both open and endovascular techniques to best suit the patient's specific need. Vascular surgeons are also called on to help other doctors or surgeons with resection of tumors that surround or invade blood vessels, with difficult intravenous or intra-arterial lines, with approach to the spine for spine surgery, or with major trauma involving blood vessels. They function as a central partner in most trauma teams and wound care centers. Many vascular problems are urgent, and may require immediate surgery, like ruptured aortic aneurysm, aortic dissection, carotid stenosis causing mini-stroke, gangrene, limb ischemia or DVT. Many other vascular problems are more elective and can even be treated in the office, like varicose veins.