What Is a Vascular Surgeon?

A pair of vascular surgeons performing surgery on a patient's leg with a vascular related issue.

A vascular surgeon specializes in treating disorders of the vascular system, which includes the blood vessels, arteries, and veins throughout your body. If you experience symptoms like pain, swelling, or numbness in your legs and arms, it may be time to consider a consultation with a vascular surgeon. 

Understanding the Role of a Vascular Surgeon

A vascular surgeon is a physician with specialized training in the diagnosis and treatment of conditions involving blood vessels. Although there are blood vessels in the heart and brain, vascular surgeons don’t treat this part of the body, focusing on veins and arteries outside of these areas.

A vascular surgeon’s goal is to ensure the blood flows smoothly throughout the body. Certain medical conditions, such as hardening of the arteries, varicose veins, or blood clots, can cause issues with blood flow. A vascular surgeon is well-trained to diagnose and treat these obstructions through lifestyle changes, medications, medical treatments, or surgery. Despite the name of this surgical specialty, vascular surgeons can offer more than just surgery.

Vascular surgeons are not the only doctors that can treat vein disorders. Other types of doctors can become vein specialists without being vascular surgeons. They may have training in certain types of procedures, such as varicose vein treatments, but are not as specialized. While they can play a role in getting patients the care they need, a vascular surgeon is the ideal provider for most vein procedures. 

Essential Training and Credentials of a Vascular Surgeon

Becoming a vascular surgeon requires extensive education and medical training. After high school, students must complete four years of college, typically receiving a degree in a science-related field, then four years of medical school. This provides them with a general medical education before specializing in vascular surgery.

Next, they will spend five to seven years in a surgical residency or training program. Once this is complete, they must sit for exams to become board-certified vascular surgeons

Key Conditions Treated by Vascular Surgeons

What does a vascular surgeon do in practice after completing their required training and education? He or she can treat conditions related to the blood vessels, including: 

  • Varicose veins
  • Venous insufficiency
  • Deep vein thrombosis (DVT)
  • Blood clots
  • Peripheral artery disease
  • Aortic aneurysms
  • Atherosclerosis or plaque in the arteries[1]
  • Carotid artery disease
  • Lymphedema
  • Thoracic outlet syndrome
  • Wounds care
  • Dialysis access

A vascular surgeon can help treat a variety of these conditions or specialize in a certain type of treatment, such as varicose vein procedures.

Typical Procedures and Treatments in Vascular Surgery

You might be surprised to learn that a vascular surgeon does not just recommend surgery as a treatment. Most vascular surgeons would prefer their patients to undergo lifestyle changes or other non-invasive treatments to help their patients improve. 

The role of a vascular surgeon is to appropriately diagnose a condition and recommend the best treatment based on their patient’s needs. The goal is to help you heal or significantly improve your vascular condition. 

Some of the procedures or treatments include: 

  • Aneurysm surgery. An aneurysm or abnormal swelling of the blood vessel wall that commonly occurs in the aorta. This type of surgery repairs part of your blood vessel to restore proper blood flow. This can be an invasive or minimally invasive procedure, depending on the patient’s needs.[2]
  • Surgery to treat peripheral artery disease (PAD). This is the most common type of vascular surgery that helps clear blood clots from the arteries leading to the heart. These surgeries include angioplasty, stenting, atherectomy, or peripheral artery bypass surgery.[3]
  • Surgery to treat carotid artery disease. Similar to surgeries for PAD, this type of surgery clears plaque from the arteries that lead to the brain. These surgeries may include carotid angioplasty, stenting, and carotid artery aneurysm. There are also minimally invasive treatments available to treat carotid artery plaque that do not require surgery, which we offer at Empire Vein Specialists. If left untreated, this could lead to a stroke.
  • Treatment for venous diseases. These types of treatment can vary, from invasive surgeries, such as bypass surgeries, to minimally invasive procedures such as sclerotherapy or VenaSeal™.

These are just a few common procedures performed by vascular surgeons. Many of these procedures require highly technical skills, so a vascular surgeon is the best type of doctor to perform these. If you have a medical concern related to your blood vessel health, start by finding a board-certified vascular surgeon who can help diagnose and treat your concerns.

When to Seek the Expertise of a Vascular Surgeon

Now that you understand what a vascular doctor is, when should you consult with one? You should seek a vascular surgeon for several reasons. For example, if you are at high risk of vascular disease, have been experiencing symptoms of vascular disease, or have already been diagnosed with a vascular disease. 

Conditions that put you at risk for vascular disease may include diabetes, smoking, or high blood pressure. Symptoms that can indicate vascular disease may include heaviness in the legs, cramping, swelling, or varicose veins.

If you think you need to see a vascular surgeon but are delaying doing so because you believe they will only recommend surgery, there’s no reason to wait for more severe complications to develop. Many non-invasive vein procedures can help you feel better and effectively prevent further complications, such as skin breakdown and mobility difficulties.

At Empire Vein Specialists, we are board-certified vascular surgeons specializing in minimally invasive varicose vein treatments. We’re the top provider of VenaSealTM, the leading outpatient vein treatment in the USA, and other vein procedures. 

To get started, schedule a 15-minute complimentary vein screening with our team or call 1-800-VARICOSE (1-800-827-4267) to learn more about our practice. Empire Vein Specialists can help you take proactive steps to keep your veins healthy and lower your risk of complications.

References:

  1. What Is Atherosclerosis? (n.d.). NHLBI, NIH. Retrieved April 29, 2024, from https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/atherosclerosis
  2. Treatment. (n.d.). NHLBI, NIH. Retrieved April 29, 2024, from https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/aortic-aneurysm/treatment
  3. Vartanian, S. M., & Conte, M. S. (2015). Surgical intervention for peripheral arterial disease. Circulation Research, 116(9), 1614–1628.
  4. Tully, A., & Bishop, M. A. (2023). Coronary Artery Surgery. StatPearls Publishing.