Oftentimes, vascular diseases are overlooked or lumped together with heart conditions. In fact, high blood pressure, which affects tens of millions of US adults, is a type of vascular disease.
Because the vascular system is so complex and widespread, vascular disease can take many different forms and cause a variety of surprising symptoms. Some of these include muscle cramping with activity, leg pain at rest, non-healing wounds, leg weakness, swelling or fatigue.
As the system that circulates blood and oxygen throughout the entire body, the vascular system relies on the arteries, veins and lymph vessels to deliver vital nutrients and remove waste. However, when there is damage or an abnormality in one or more of these vessels, this is known as vascular disease. This can include everything from plaque build-up that causes a narrowing or complete blockage, the formation of blood clots leading to leg swelling or a thinning of artery walls leading to the formation of aneurysms – all which can lead to serious health problems.
Why Choose Georgia Heart Institute?
When it comes to the complexity of vascular diseases, it’s essential that patients receive care that’s both precise and customized. Enriched by innovative technology, Georgia Heart Institute’s vascular surgery program combines unparalleled expertise with advanced treatments for the full spectrum of cardiovascular services. From diagnosis to treatment planning and routine health maintenance and surveillance, our vascular surgeons are fully committed to your long-term cardiovascular health.
Each patient’s care is individually customized and coordinated by an experienced, fellowship-trained provider. We perform thousands of procedures every year, ranging from minimally-invasive endovascular and hybrid procedures in our new, state-of-the-art Endovascular Operating Room (EVOR) to complex, open revascularization and repairs. With a specialized team of vascular clinicians working as a team with the surgeons, this ensures the most efficient and effective medical care. Ultimately, this means our patients have a prompt return to an improved quality of life.
Vascular Conditions We Treat
Georgia Heart Institute’s vascular program is equipped to treat the full range of vascular diseases, from common and routine conditions to complex, advanced or rare conditions.
While our team strives to identify and diagnose vascular conditions in their earliest and most treatable stages, there are many instances and certain complex conditions that are more effectively treated with advanced forms of treatment. With an experienced team, a cutting-edge endovascular suite and dedicated vascular operating rooms, our surgeons are fully equipped to treat the following:
The aorta, which runs from the heart, through the chest and into the abdomen, is the main artery that carries blood away from the heart to supply the entire body. High blood pressure, atherosclerosis, non-atherosclerotic vascular disease, and trauma can all cause damage to, or a weakening of, the aorta. Over time, all or part of the aorta may begin to dilate, bulge or balloon, which is known as an aneurysm. The aneurysm will continue growing until it’s treated, and as it becomes larger, the risk of rupture becomes greater. A tear in this vessel, also known as an aortic dissection, may cause loss of blood flow to vital organs or life-threatening internal bleeding. Both are medical emergencies that require prompt evaluation, work-up and treatment.
Arteriosclerosis occurs when blood vessels become hardened and stiff, which can restrict the flow of blood to your organs. Atherosclerosis is a type of arteriosclerosis where plaque builds up inside the arteries leading to reduction or complete loss of blood flow. Prompt work-up, evaluation and treatment of these conditions is important as they can lead to the development of heart disease, peripheral vascular disease, aneurysms or chronic kidney disease requiring dialysis.
The brain is dependent on the carotid arteries in the neck for delivery of blood and oxygen. When there is plaque build-up in the carotid arteries, it causes the vessels to become stiff and narrow, reducing blood flow to the brain. Risk factors such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, smoking, family history and excess weight all increase the likelihood of developing carotid artery disease. While carotid artery disease is largely asymptomatic (causes no symptoms), serious symptoms can develop without adequate surveillance, medical management and surgical treatment. Symptoms include vision changes (known as Amaurosis Fugax) and numbness/weakness/paralysis of one side of the body. These symptoms can be minor and resolve quickly (known as a transient ischemic attack or TIA) or be permanent and lead to serious stroke with permanent disability.
Common Vascular Conditions
When the valves within the veins of the legs don’t work as efficiently or effectively as they should. This results in poor return of blood from the legs back to the heart, leading to leg swelling and skin discoloration.
Damage or weakening of veins can cause them to become enlarged, twisted and/or swollen just under the skin. While varicose veins can occur anywhere in the body, they’re most common in the legs. This can lead to aching, cramping, throbbing, swelling, redness, pain, burning or itching.
When blood pools in small veins near the surface of the skin, especially in the face and legs, this can cause thin lines or webs that are blue, purple or red in color to appear. Spider veins are more common in people that stand for long periods of time during the day, as well as with age or pregnancy.
When a blood clot, or a thickened, semi-solid clump of blood, forms inside a vein that’s deep inside the body, this is known as a deep vein thrombosis (DVT). This blood clot can obstruct flow within the lumen of the vein leading to swelling and restriction of blood flow to a certain part of the body. While most DVTs only lead to swelling and can resolve with time and adequate treatment, they can cause more serious problems such as a pulmonary embolus, which can be a life-threatening condition that requires prompt attention and treatment. While DVTs often form in the leg, they can develop anywhere.
Build-up of fatty plaque in the arteries can occur throughout the body. However, when it affects blood vessels in the legs, stomach, arms, neck and/or head, it’s known as peripheral artery disease (PAD). If left untreated, PAD can lead to more advanced forms of vascular disease.
In late stage kidney failure, dialysis is used to help filter and clean the body’s blood, as well as perform other functions for the failed kidneys, such as fluid elimination. In cases of end stage kidney failure, hemodialysis access is necessary to provide a means to receive and help the treatment process.
When the arteries that supply the kidneys, intestines or other intra-abdominal organs become stiff or narrowed due to plaque build-up, or atherosclerosis, it impacts blood flow. This can be an organ-threatening or life-threatening problem that requires immediate attention and treatment.
In some cases, aortic aneurysms (see above for detailed description) can be especially complex and involve the aorta in both the chest and abdominal cavity. This is known as a thoracoabdominal aortic aneurysm. With an extensive amount of the aorta affected involving numerous other vessels in a difficult location, it requires highly-specialized, complex and precise intervention.
This refers to several different disorders affecting the nerves, arteries or veins that supply the arm and occurs when there’s compression of these structures between your collar bone and ribs. Symptoms occur based on which structure is compressed and can include chronic pain or discomfort, arm swelling, numbness or tingling and discoloration of the hand. There are a variety of different causes, including abnormal anatomy or development at birth, repetitive activity, trauma, and poor posture.
Depending on your condition and unique health needs, there are a variety of different treatment options that may be right for you. In addition to non-invasive services, medications and other therapies, we offer the following procedures:
Vascular ablations utilize different types of energy, either radiofrequency or laser, to treat and close varicose veins. This helps to effectively relieve pain, swelling or irritation caused by large varicose veins.
This minimally-invasive procedure utilizes a specialized catheter, which is inserted through the femoral artery located in the groin, to open plaque build-up and help restore blood flow within the artery. Oftentimes, a stent, which is small tube made of nitinol or stainless steel, is placed in the artery to ensure that the artery remains open with adequate blood flow. Angioplasty and stents are utilized to treat a variety of conditions, including carotid artery disease, renal and mesenteric artery disease and peripheral artery disease.
For those conditions that take place in larger blood vessels, like the aorta, a stent graft is used. The stent graft is inserted using the same minimally-invasive technique as a traditional stent; however, the stent graft consists of a larger nitinol or stainless steel frame that is covered with a woven material. Conditions commonly treated with stent grafts include thoracoabdominal aortic aneurysms, infrarenal aortic aneurysms, thoracic aneurysms and dissections. The stent graft is placed in the aorta wherever the disease process is located, and it works to reinforce the weakened portion of the blood vessel to prevent future tearing or rupture.
When carotid artery disease cannot be treated using traditional or open surgical procedures, a new and innovative procedure exists, which we are able to perform. This is a hybrid procedure which combines open surgical revascularization with stenting, allowing safer treatment of more complex disease with a lower stroke risk.
When peripheral artery disease limits blood flow or causes a blockage that cannot be fixed in our endovascular suite, bypass grafting is used to provide a new path for blood flow. Using either the patient’s own vein or synthetic plastic tubing, a healthy portion of the blood vessel is connected to another healthy portion of the blood vessel. This reroutes blood flow and bypasses any occluded, unhealthy or diseased portions of the artery.
This surgical procedure is done to treat carotid artery disease by opening the artery and directly removing the plaque build-up. This helps to restore healthy blood flow to the brain and reduces the risk of future stroke.
Using a traditional, open surgical approach, the enlarged, diseased or torn portion of the artery is removed and directly replaced with a woven graft. The graft helps to divert blood flow from the weakened portion of the aorta to a new, replaced portion and limits future risk of tears or ruptures.
These procedures are required and performed when there is poor blood flow to the arteries that supply the kidneys or intestines. Using either the patient’s own vein or a prosthetic graft, a bypass procedure reroutes blood flow from the aorta or other non-diseased vessels to these vital organs. This reroutes the blood around the diseased arteries.
These procedures are required when the kidneys do not function and clean the blood as they should, leading to build-up of toxins. Dialysis allows the blood to be cleaned through a machine, removing the toxins and performing the job of the kidneys. A fistula creates a connection directly between an artery and vein, which is done to increase blood flow through that specific vein. In other cases when the vein cannot be used, a prosthetic graft is sewn between an artery and vein, creating an AV graft. These two procedures create a dialysis access that can be easily accessed and used clean the blood with dialysis.
For temporary or short-term hemodialysis treatment, a catheter may be inserted into a vein in the neck, chest or groin, tunneled through and out of the skin, and left in place. This type of access is required while more permanent AV fistula or grafts are created or matured.
Using an open surgical approach, symptomatic varicose veins near the surface of skin are directly removed through small incisions in the skin.
Receiving Vascular Care at Georgia Heart Institute
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