The aorta is the largest artery in the body, running through the chest and abdomen before splitting in two to enter each leg. It carries oxygen-rich blood from the heart to the body’s organs. An interruption in this flow, such as that due to a narrowing from calcification, can reduce or cut off the oxygen supply and result in a host of problems.
Arterial conditions we treat include:
Aortic aneurysms (abdominal and thoracic)
When an area of the aorta expands like a balloon, it weakens the vessel walls. If a small aneurysm is discovered through routine care and causes no symptoms, your doctor may choose to monitor it carefully. However, if an aneurysm is large (5.5 mm or more) or is expanding rapidly, surgical intervention is needed to reduce the risk of life-threatening leak or rupture. Minimally invasive surgery of thoracic and abdominal aortic aneurysms has dramatically reduced the recovery from repair. The goal of surgery is to repair the aneurysm before it causes symptoms or problems.
Aortic aneurysms may develop as a result of trauma, infections, congential (present at birth) syndromes, or gentic disorders of the connective tissue (abnormalities that can affect tissues such as bones, cartilage, heart, and blood vessels)—such as Marfan syndrome, Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, Turner's syndrome, and polycystic kidney disease—or giant cell arteritis, a disease that causes inflammation of the arteries in the head and neck.
Vascular surgeon Sherene Shalhub, MD, discusses Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome
(Courtesy of the National Institutes of Health [NIH])
Carotid artery disease (Cerebral vascular disease)
A carotid artery extends up each side of your neck to supply blood to the brain. When these pathways are narrowed by plaque build-up, clots can stick, block the flow of blood and starve the brain of oxygen, causing a stroke. Surgery or balloon angioplasty and stenting can help prevent a primary stroke or prevent recurrent strokes; and in the case of stroke, fast emergency intervention saves brain tissue—and lives.
Peripheral vascular disease (PVD)
Symptoms of PVD or narrowed arteries in the legs include pain or numbness in the calf or foot, or wounds that won’t heal properly. PVD usually occurs in people over age 50. Unfortunately, many dismiss their symptoms as just poor circulation due to aging and don’t seek treatment. Those with PVD have at least a quadruple risk of heart attack or stroke compared with the general population.
Renal artery stenosis
Atherosclerosis is often thought of in terms of the heart, but hardening of the arteries can happen elsewhere in the body. When plaque build-up narrows the renal artery and blocks blood flow to the kidneys, it can result in high blood pressure and even kidney failure. There are no visible symptoms.
Iliac artery stenosis
The aorta splits in two and becomes the iliac arteries; at the groin level they become the femoral arteries. Hardened (calcified) plaque can build up and narrow these arteries that feed the legs. Reduced blood flow causes calf pain, non-healing wounds, or foot pain.
Arterial thrombosis (blood clots)
In addition to fatty deposits, other factors can contribute to blood clots. Some chemotherapy regimens and other drugs cause the blood to become “stickier” and more likely to clot. Blood clots can form in many arteries throughout the body and cause pain, numbness and tissue loss.
After feeding the body’s organs through the arteries, blood is depleted of oxygen. Defying gravity, blood makes its way back to the heart through the venous system. Problems can also occur on the return trip.
Deep vein thrombosis (DVT)
DVT is a blood clot in the deep veins, usually in the legs. DVT carries the life-threatening risk of pulmonary embolism—a clot breaking off and traveling to the lung. DVT causes pain and swelling in the legs and feet, but clots can also more rarely develop in the deep veins of the arms.
In addition to obesity, immobility and certain medications, five percent of the population carries a genetic risk factor for venous thrombosis known as factor V Leiden, which causes blood to clot very easily.
Patients on kidney dialysis have 24-hour support at Valley Medical Center. We perform surgery for access, both fistula creation (joining an artery to a vein) or graft placement (a manmade artery-vein connection using a tube). We provide thrombolytic therapy to de-clot grafts and fistulas. We also provide temporary and tunneled dialysis access as needed.
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Venous conditions we treat include:
Varicose and Spider Veins
Blood flows into the legs through arteries and travels back to the heart through veins. Wispy, one-way valves help push the blood upward, working against gravity. When the valves weaken they don’t close properly and blood pools in the legs, enlarging and weakening the veins. So named for their “ropy” appearance, varicose veins can be the result of childbirth, aging, obesity, or they may simply be genetic. In the case of spider veins, blood slowly seeps out of small vessels close to the surface to become visible through the skin. Both spider veins and varicose veins tend to worsen over time.
The distension and discoloration of varicose and spider veins can be embarrassing at best. When severe, they can cause pain and discomfort including swelling, aching, sores and inflammation. If self-management (weight loss, exercise, elevation and compression) is not enough, there are now minimally invasive solutions to eliminate varicose and spider veins quickly and easily.
At Valley Medical Center, we successfully banish varicose and spider veins using the latest treatment options to help you regain both comfort and confidence. All of our vein procedures are performed by board-certified vascular surgeons for the highest levels of skill and expertise.
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