What is peripheral vascular surgery?
Peripheral vascular disease is primarily a blockage or damage that occurs in the blood vessels away from the heart, i.e. the peripheral arteries and veins. These obstructions generate a narrowing in the veins and arteries, with the well-known atheroma plaques accumulating in the vessel walls due to excess cholesterol.
Peripheral vascular disease affects both men and women, and there are a number of risk factors that predispose a person to suffer from it:
- Sedentary lifestyle habits
- Being over 50 years of age
- Hypertension and/or high cholesterol
- Family history of peripheral vascular disease
In this case, peripheral vascular surgery is the branch of medicine that deals with the treatment of blood vessels that encompass all parts of the body except for the heart and brain.
Thus, peripheral vascular surgery covers the following areas:
- Aortic disease
- Vascular diseases of the lower limbs
- Varicose veins
- Radiofrequency varicose veins
- Lymphatic drainage
- Open surgery
- Venous surgery
- Endovascular interventions and endovascular venous interventions
Why is peripheral vascular surgery performed?
Peripheral vascular surgery is performed in order to provide a solution to vascular diseases affecting the arteries and blood vessels, with the exception of the heart and brain, in which case the Cardiologist and Neurologist are in charge respectively.
When a person suffers from peripheral vascular disease (PVD), damage or blockage occurs in the body’s blood vessels, the main cause of artery disease being arteriosclerosis.
Typically, the areas of the body most affected by PVD are the arteries in the legs, although occasionally the carotid arteries and the aorta are also affected.
The most common sign of PVD is a cramp-like pain, known as intermittent claudication, which appears in the legs and occurs when the affected person walks.
Numbness or tremor in the legs is another common sign, and in extreme cases may also occur at rest.
Skin color changes in the affected area are also common, as well as hair loss in the affected area. In very extreme cases gangrene may occur.
Those affected by peripheral vascular disease are at risk for cardiovascular disease as well as stroke.
The legs are the body parts most affected by peripheral vascular disease.
What is peripheral vascular surgery?
Before peripheral vascular surgery is performed, you should try to reduce or control the disease with a series of positive habits, such as reducing the consumption of foods high in cholesterol, increasing the amount of physical exercise and, if you are a smoker, giving up smoking.
If lifestyle changes have been made and have not been sufficient, there are various ways of treating the blood vessels to remove the blockage and reactivate blood flow.
One of them is through treatment with medications, either to alleviate symptoms, prevent clots, control pressure, lower cholesterol….
However, there are cases in which it is necessary to perform surgery to treat arterial obstruction.
- Angioplasty: consists of dilating an arterial stenosis by introducing a catheter with an inflatable balloon. It is only performed
- Bypass surgery: thanks to this technique the circulation of the arteries is improved thanks to a venous or synthetic implantation that manages to avoid or save the obstruction in a very stenosed area.
- Thrombolytic therapy: consists of the injection of one or more drugs that dilute the clot blocking the artery.
- Lumbar sympathectomy: consists of a surgical intervention in which part of the sympathetic nerve pathways, responsible for its constriction, is intervened. Once the lump is successfully removed, the vessel relaxes and expands, allowing greater blood flow.
Preparation for peripheral vascular surgery
In order to undergo a vascular surgery procedure, it is not necessary to prepare thoroughly beforehand.
It is necessary for the patient and the specialist to have seen each other beforehand, since the specialist must know the patient’s medical history. A pre-anesthetic assessment is also necessary.
Once the patient meets all the requirements and has come to the consultation, it may be necessary to shave the area to be operated on. In the event that the patient is taking anticoagulants, he/she should discontinue treatment according to medical indications.
On the other hand, the patient must be operated on after having fasted for a minimum of six hours beforehand.
Care after peripheral vascular surgery
Care after peripheral vascular surgery will vary depending on whether or not the procedure was performed on an outpatient basis.
In the case of open surgery, a cut or incision will have been made in the area where the artery or blood vessel is blocked, and this incision may cause discomfort or pain for the first few days after surgery.
Once several days have passed after the intervention, the patient will be able to start walking without the need to rest, and it is recommended that short distances be made with three or four outings daily.
Alternatives to this treatment
The main alternatives to peripheral vascular surgery are noninvasive methods that can remit or control arterial obstruction problems.