Your body has a disproportionately large network of blood vessels that ensure all tissues are well supplied with nutrients and waste products are properly eliminated. It is estimated that if all the blood vessels in a person’s body were stretched end-to-end, they would wrap around the Earth twice! This means that this body system is immensely complex. A problem with such complicated systems is that they tend to experience problems from time to time. The Center for Vascular Medicine is a facility that specializes in taking care of any such problems that plague a person’s vascular system.

The blood vessels of the body include arteries, veins, and capillaries. However, vascular surgery mainly deals with arteries and veins. Any aberrant condition that plagues this vast network of arteries and veins is considered a vascular disease.

What Do Vascular Surgeons Do?

It’s tempting to think that vascular specialists solely focus on diseases and conditions that affect the arteries and veins. That’s not true. A vascular surgeon treats any condition that could be connected to the vascular system. It doesn’t have to affect the blood vessels’ structural integrity only. For example, stroke is a common medical emergency. It involves a blockage in a blood vessel of the brain, usually an artery. This results in that particular part of the brain not getting enough supply, meaning fewer nutrients get to it. Depending on the extent and duration of this blockage, lasting brain damage, paralysis, or death could occur. A vascular surgeon treats such conditions and much more. The terms vascular surgeon and specialists are used interchangeably from time to time. This is because a vascular surgeon doesn’t have to perform surgery on every patient that comes in with a vascular condition. Sometimes, the treatment may be non-invasive. For example, deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is when a blood clot develops deep in the lower limbs’ veins. If you see a vascular surgeon for such a condition, they may only prescribe drugs and recommend using special compression stockings. While a vascular surgeon is trained to identify, monitor, and manage every vascular condition, surgery is not all they do. They can treat some conditions without resorting to surgery. For example, some vascular surgeons also specialize in wound care. This is because wound healing (or lack thereof) has a lot to do with how well a particular body part is supplied with blood.

Vascular surgeons tend to build long-term relationships with their patients out of necessity. This is because most vascular conditions are chronic, meaning they go on for months, years, or even a lifetime. As such, patients may need to see a vascular surgeon regularly.

When to See a Vascular Surgeon

You should see a vascular surgeon as soon as you feel that you have any vascular disease. However, making this determination on your own is usually difficult. Under normal circumstances, your primary care physician will be the one to discover a vascular condition and recommend seeing a vascular surgeon. A good example is when you go into the emergency room for severe leg pain only to be told that you have deep vein thrombosis or peripheral artery disease. In such cases, the attending physician will refer you to a vascular surgeon. Of course, if you’re a smoker or an individual with a high risk of developing vascular conditions, it makes sense to cultivate a relationship with a vascular surgeon. That way, you have quick access to one in case of a vascular medical emergency.

Common Types of Vascular Conditions

The following are common vascular conditions that require seeing a vascular specialist. These include:

i)Blood Clots and Pulmonary Embolism: Blood clots should not be formed within your blood vessels under normal circumstances. When they do, it can lead to blockage of blood supply to an organ or tissue. This could have serious consequences. For example, when a clot forms in a distant part of the body and travels to block a lung’s blood vessel, pulmonary embolism is said to have occurred. This can lead to death if not handled quickly enough. Deep vein thrombosis is another type of undesirable blood clot that affects lower limbs.

ii) Stroke: Thanks to advances in modern medical care, vascular surgeons are able to save many victims of stroke. However, a sizeable number still suffer serious neurological issues due to a lack of timely medical intervention. A stroke is when the brain’s blood supply is cut off due to a blood clot. This can lead to long-term, debilitating physical effects like paralysis.

All in all, numerous vascular conditions can send you to the vascular surgeon’s office. While a referral from a general practitioner is usually needed, sometimes it can be because of your medical history.