Vascular disease is a term for a wide range of diseases that affect the vascular, or blood vessel, systems of your body. Whatever your condition, North Mississippi Medical Center's experienced team and advanced tools can help you get the relief and results you need.
The body’s amazing vascular system is made up of vessels that carry blood throughout the body. Arteries carry oxygen-rich blood away from the heart, while veins carry oxygen-poor blood back to the heart. Blood leaves the left side of the heart and is pumped out to the rest of the body. The main artery from the heart is called the aorta.
As we age, our arteries tend to thicken, get stiffer and narrow—a processed called arteriosclerosis. When plaque builds up and narrows the blood vessels leading to the heart, it can cause a heart attack.
The same situation in the arteries leading to the brain can cause strokes. Narrowing of the arteries in other places, such as the legs, can cause Peripheral arterial disease (PAD) and lead to sores, pain with walking or amputation. Dilation of these arteries is an aneurysm.
Complete Carotid Care
Blocked carotid arteries occur when plaque builds up in the main blood vessels to the brain. Eighty percent of strokes are “ischemic strokes,” where part of the circulation to the brain is cut off, usually by blockages in the carotid arteries.
NMMC's vascular surgeons help prevent stroke with three main types of procedures. In a carotid endarterectomy, the vascular surgeon removes the plaque from the artery through a neck incision then repair the artery using a graft from vein elsewhere in the body or a woven patch. Another option is carotid stenting, a minimally invasive procedure where the surgeon places a small, expandable tube called a stent in the narrowed artery.
TransCarotid Artery Revascularization (TCAR) is a new option for patients considered too risky for traditional surgery. Surgeons perform the procedure through a much smaller incision at the neckline just above the clavicle instead of a longer incision on the neck. TCAR is unique in that blood flow is temporarily reversed during the procedure so that any small bits of plaque that may break off are diverted away from the brain, preventing a stroke from happening. Surgeons then filter the blood before returning it to a vein in the groin and implant a stent directly into the carotid artery to stabilize the plaque and prevent future strokes. Patients stay overnight in the hospital and recover quickly.
An aortic aneurysm is an enlargement or “bulge” that develops in a weakened area within the largest artery in the body. These can happen in the abdomen (abdominal aortic aneurysm) or in the chest (thoracic aortic aneurysm). Untreated, an aneurysm can burst and cause death.
Vascular surgeons perform two types of aneurysm repair—endovascular (or minimally-invasive) and open surgery. With open surgery, the surgeon makes an abdominal incision and removes the aneurysm then sews a graft in place to reestablish blood flow. In the minimally-invasive procedure, nothing is removed. Instead the surgeon uses a catheter to place a stent graft to reinforce the wall of the aorta from the inside and help keep the damaged area from rupturing.
Peripheral arterial disease (PAD) occurs when atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries, causes a buildup of plaque in the blood vessels that carry oxygen and nutrients to all the tissues of the body. As these plaques worsen, they reduce essential blood flow to the limbs and can even cause complete blockages of the arteries, resulting in amputation.
Early diagnosis and treatment is key to being able to spare a person’s limbs. The most conservative treatment is lifestyle changes—exercise, smoking cessation, healthy eating and medical management.
Vascular surgeons offer three minimally-invasive procedures—artherectomy, balloon angioplasty and stents. Artherectomy uses a catheter with a blade on the end to remove plaque from a blood vessel. In balloon angioplasty, a catheter is guided to the narrowed artery then a balloon is inflated to open up the artery. Sometimes a tiny stent will be placed to hold the artery open and reduce the risk of it narrowing again.
For patients who are not good candidates for a minimally-invasive approach, open surgery may be required. In a traditional open surgical bypass, the vascular surgeon creates an alternate route to circumvent the area of blockage. A graft or vein from elsewhere in the body is stitched in place to restore blood flow to the lower leg and foot.
If blood thickens in a clump that becomes solid, a clot forms. If a piece of the clot breaks off, it could travel to the lungs and make breathing difficult, or even cause death. DVT is usually treated with medications called blood thinners.
Vascular surgeons offer catheter directed thrombolytic therapy for clots in the leg, thigh or pelvis which are apt to travel. This procedure uses a catheter to deliver drugs called lytics or “clot busters” directly to the site of the clot.
In certain situations, surgeons perform a minimally-invasive procedure known as venous stenting. The surgeon inserts a catheter and opens a small balloon in the blocked or narrowed vein to open it wider. Then a stent is placed to keep the vein open.
If a person’s kidneys fail, his body is unable to clean and filter his blood. When kidney function falls below a certain threshold, dialysis is needed. Vascular surgeons offer dialysis access in two ways.
The vascular surgeon can create an AV fistula by taking a nearby vein and sewing it to a nearby artery. Over time the vein develops into a usable fistula. If a person’s veins are too small for an AV fistula, the surgeon can create an AV graft by sewing a prosthetic graft between an artery and vein in the arm or leg.