What is Vascular Surgery?
Vascular surgery is used to treat diseases of the vascular system. The vascular system is a network of blood vessels that circulates blood to and from the heart and lungs and to various parts of the body. Vascular diseases are very common, especially as people age. Untreated vascular disease can lead to serious health problems, such as tissue death and gangrene requiring amputation or other surgery; chronic disability and pain; and weakened blood vessels that may rupture without warning. Vascular surgery deals with the diseases of the vascular system. The vascular system consists of arteries, veins, and lymphatics.
Arteries are tubes that carry oxygenated blood from the heart to various organs and parts of the body. The arteries can become partially or completely occluded, dilated, get injured or become inflamed. The artery supplying a particular limb or organ can become narrow or get blocked due to atherosclerosis. This results in decreased blood supply to the affected organ and may result in muscle aches and cramps in the legs during walking. Advanced and severe disease can result in gangrene of the leg.
Blocks in arteries to the kidneys can result in hypertension and reduced kidney function. Similar disease in the carotid arteries that supply the brain can result in stroke or paralysis. Early attention by a vascular specialist at LifeBridge Health’s Vascular Institute can modify the disease process and prevent catastrophic complications. Arteries may sometimes become large, resulting in formation of aneurysms. These aneurysms can rupture resulting in life-threatening situations.
Veins are tubes that return deoxygenated blood from various parts of the body, back to the heart. Veins have cuplike valves along their inside walls. These allow blood to flow up the vein, towards the heart. When valves close, they keep blood from falling back down the vein. Vein, or venous diseases can occur due to valve dysfunction, inflammation and occlusion.
Venous diseases include:
- Chronic leg swelling, or varicose veins: These occur due to failure of valve function.
- Deep vein thrombosis: The blood clots in the large veins causing obstruction to return of blood to the heart. This commonly affects the legs resulting in swelling and pain. Sometimes veins of the upper limbs, brain and intestines are also affected.
- Venous ulcer: It is a result of chronic venous insufficiency that can result from varicose veins or deep vein thrombosis (DVT).
Lymphatics are thin tubes that carry excessive fluid from various parts of the body into the venous system.
Blockage in the lymphatic vessels can lead to significant leg or arm swelling. These blockages can be inherited or occur due to previous surgery, injury or infection.