Vascular Surgery

Abdominal aortic aneurysm is a localized enlargement of the abdominal aorta such that the diameter is greater than 3 cm or more than 50% larger than normal diameter. They usually cause no symptoms except when ruptured. Occasionally there may be abdominal, back or leg pain. Large aneurysms can sometimes be felt by pushing on the abdomen. Rupture may result in pain in the abdomen or back, low blood pressure or a brief loss of consciousness.

Varicose veins are veins that have become enlarged and twisted. The term commonly refers to the veins on the leg, although varicose veins can occur elsewhere. Veins have pairs of leaflet valves to prevent blood from flowing backwards (retrograde flow or venous reflux). Leg muscles pump the veins to return blood to the heart (the skeletal-muscle pump), against the effects of gravity. When veins become varicose, the leaflets of the valves no longer meet properly, and the valves do not work (valvular incompetence). This allows blood to flow backwards and they enlarge even more. Varicose veins are most common in the superficial veins of the legs, which are subject to high pressure when standing. Besides being a cosmetic problem, varicose veins can be painful, especially when standing. Severe long-standing varicose veins can lead to leg swelling, venous eczema, skin thickening (lipodermatosclerosis) and ulceration. Life-threatening complications are uncommon, but varicose veins may be confused with deep vein thrombosis, which may be life-threatening.

Peripheral artery disease (PAD) is a narrowing of the arteries other than those that supply the heart or the brain. When narrowing occurs in the heart it is called coronary artery disease while in the brain it is called cerebrovascular disease. Peripheral artery disease most commonly affects the legs, but other arteries may also be involved. The classic symptom is leg pain when walking which resolves with rest, known as intermittent claudication. Other symptoms including skin ulcers, bluish skin, cold skin, or poor nail and hair growth may occur in the affected leg. Complications may include an infection or tissue death which may require amputation; coronary artery disease, or stroke. Up to 50% of cases of PAD are without symptoms.

Acute limb ischemia (ALI) occurs when there is a sudden lack of blood flow to a limb.

Acute limb ischemia is caused by embolism or thrombosis, or rarely by dissection or trauma. Thrombosis is usually caused by peripheral (atherosclerotic disease that leads to blood vessel blockage), while an embolism is usually of cardiac origin. In the United States, ALI is estimated to occur in 14 out of every 100,000 people per year. With proper surgical care, acute limb ischemia is a highly treatable condition; however, delayed treatment (beyond 6 to 12 hours) can result in permanent disability, amputation, and/or death.

Aortic dissection occurs when a tear in the tunica intima of the aorta causes blood to flow between the layers of the wall of the aorta, forcing the layers apart. In most cases this is associated with severe characteristic chest or abdominal pain described as "tearing" in character, and often with other symptoms that result from decreased blood supply to other organs. Aortic dissection is a medical and can quickly lead to death, even with optimal treatment, as a result of decreased blood supply to other organs, heart failure, and sometimes rupture of the aorta. Aortic dissection is more common in those with a history of high blood pressure, a known thoracic aortic aneurysm, and in a number of connective tissue diseases that affect blood vessel wall integrity such as Marfan syndrome and the vascular subtype of Ehlers–Danlos syndrome. The diagnosis is made with medical imaging (computed tomography, magnetic resonance imaging or echocardiography).