Health and Fitness

Vascular Surgeries: What to Expect

A vascular procedure is a surgery that treats obstructions in the large arteries. The most common reason for these obstructions is injury or inflammation of the artery wall resulting in atherosclerosis, more commonly known as hardening of the arteries.

It usually results from high cholesterol levels combined with smoking, family history, or obesity. Obstructive symptoms may include chest pain, shortness of breath, and tingling in the hands and feet. Treatment may include angioplasty to unblock an artery or stenting to keep it open.

Who Needs Vascular Surgery and Treatments?

Atherosclerosis can affect anyone, but it is most common in people over 50. Other risk factors responsible for atherosclerosis include high blood pressure, diabetes, and being overweight or obese. If one has any of the above-mentioned risk factors, it is essential to talk to a doctor about whether one needs a vascular procedure.

Vascular Surgery Procedures

Angioplasty: The purpose of angioplasty is to open narrowed or blocked arteries. By inserting a thin tube catheter through the artery, a small balloon is inflated. The balloon forces the fatty deposits against the interior wall of the artery, causing it to widen. Once the artery has widened, the balloon is removed, and a stent may be placed in the artery to keep it open.

Stenting: A stent is a metal coil or wire mesh tube inserted into an artery during angioplasty to keep it open. A stent remains in the artery permanently.

Bypass Surgery: It treats coronary heart disease when medication fails to improve symptoms. A healthy artery or vein from another part of the body is connected or grafted above and below the blocked section to reroute blood flow

The AV Fistula: It is a surgical procedure that involves taking a vein from the arm, leg, neck, or chest and surgically attaching it to the heart. Patients with advanced chronic kidney failure with enlarged hearts most often undergo the procedure, as their hearts are unable to pump blood throughout their bodies.

Embolization: It is a procedure to cut blood flow to an organ or other part of the body. A tiny coil or another device that acts as a blockage is placed in the artery that supplies blood to the problem area. When it reaches its destination, it causes clotting and blocks the vessels supplying blood to the area.

How to Prepare for Vascular Surgery?

Vascular procedures perform at a hospital or outpatient center. The decision to perform a vascular procedure is based on the severity of the symptoms and how much narrowing or blockage in the artery is causing them. Discuss with a doctor which type of treatment will be best. If medication cannot control the symptoms, vascular procedures may be necessary to reduce pain and further damage caused by poor blood flow.

What Happens During Vascular Surgery and Treatments?

In most cases, vascular surgery takes place on an outpatient basis. In addition to sedation before surgery, most patients will also have a tube in their mouth to protect their airways throughout the surgery. If one has a minimally-invasive procedure, only a tiny incision will help to insert catheters or instruments.  More invasive surgery may require a larger incision. Surgery times vary depending on the type of surgery and the medical condition. During catheter-based procedures, the patient will remain awake while the doctor monitors the equipment and performs other tasks to treat the symptoms.

What Can One Expect After Vascular Surgery?

One may have some bruising or tenderness immediately after surgery. Swelling of joint is also present but usually goes away within a few weeks. Most people feel better after surgery and can return to normal activities within a few days.

Risk in Vascular Procedures

Although vascular procedures are generally very safe, some risks are inherent to the surgery. These risks include bleeding or hematoma formation under the skin due to prolonged pressure. An artery gets insert through a thin tube catheter, which inflates the balloon. It can also cause damages to nerves or blood vessels during angioplasty, which may cause permanent pain at the insertion site.

General Risks:

  • Procedure-related infection
  • Hematoma/blood loss
  • Death
  • Stroke
  • Nerve damage
  • Heart attack or death from a heart attack (long term) or procedural complication (typically short term) such as dissection.


Vascular surgery is a highly technical and specialized treatment. Discuss the options with a doctor to determine if one should undergo vascular surgery to treat their condition.

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