What is an Aneurysm?
An aneurysm is a weak spot in an artery similar to a bubble or blister on an old tire. Aneurysms are important because if they reach a certain size they can rupture, which is a catastrophic event with a high probability of death. Aneurysms are most commonly found in the abdominal aorta but can occur in any artery in the body. If aneurysms are diagnosed early they can be treated surgically with an excellent prognosis.
What is Angioplasty?
Angioplasty is a newer less invasive method of treating blockages in arteries. Traditional treatment of artery blockages involved an open operation to bypass the narrowed artery. Angioplasty involves dilating the area with a small balloon on a catheter which is passed through the artery via a small incision. Frequently a small metal stent is placed in the artery after the balloon dilation to help keep the artery open. Angioplasty is an important technique in the field of endovascular surgery, which attempts to treat vascular patients with less invasive and therefore less traumatic procedures.
What is Atherosclerosis?
Atherosclerosis is commonly known as "hardening of the arteries." Atherosclerosis is a degenerative process that affects all of the arteries of the body. It is the natural result of aging but is also affected by a variety of risk factors. Atherosclerosis is inherited to a certain degree and is more common in some families than others. This is particularly important to patients who have a family history of premature disease such as heart attack or stroke at an early age. Other risk factors include hypertension, diabetes and hyperlipidemia (high fat and cholesterol). The most common risk factor is smoking. Atherosclerosis affects the arteries many ways, usually resulting in blockages. Though atherosclerosis affects all the arteries of the body, the most common sites are the coronary arteries (supplying the heart), the carotid arteries (in the neck, supplying the brain), and the leg arteries. Therefore the common problems resulting from atherosclerosis include heart attacks, stroke and arterial insufficiency of the legs.
What is Carotid Disease?
The carotid arteries are the main blood supply to the brain. Blockages in the carotid arteries are the most common cause of stroke. Patients with carotid artery disease may have symptoms of stroke or mini strokes ("TIA's"). Stroke symptoms are usually spells of weakness or numbness involving one side of the body, or difficulty with speech. These symptoms can be permanent or only last a few minutes. Many patients have no symptoms. Diagnosis can be made by hearing a sound in the neck over the carotid artery, called a bruit, or by a simple noninvasive test called an ultrasound. Patients with symptomatic blockages or very tight asymptomatic blockages are treated with a surgical procedure called carotid endarterectomy. In this operation the artery is "cleaned out" and repaired. This is an excellent operation with low risk that is very effective in preventing stroke.
What is Claudication?
Claudication is a common symptom in patients who have poor circulation to their legs. Claudication is leg pain, weakness, or numbness brought on by exercise such as walking and relieved by rest. Claudication is reproducible, meaning that most patients can walk a certain distance before developing pain and are relieved by resting. Claudication is caused by a blockage in an artery to the legs which doesn't allow the muscles of the legs to get enough blood and oxygen during exercise. Claudication is caused by atherosclerosis or "hardening of the arteries" and can be treated by a variety of methods including medications, angioplasty, and surgery. Severe degrees of arterial insufficiency of the legs can result in rest pain and eventually gangrene.
What is Phlebitis?
Phlebitis or deep venous thrombophlebitis means blood clots in the veins of the legs. This condition is serious for two reasons. Blood clots in the deep veins of the legs can break loose and got to the heart and lungs (a pulmonary embolus), which can be a life threatening problem. A secondary problem caused by thrombophlebitis is chronic venous insufficiency of the legs which can lead to chronic swelling, pain, and ulcerations of the legs. Thrombophlebitis usually causes pain and swelling of the legs and is diagnosed by ultrasound. Treatment is with anticoagulation ("blood thinners"), support hose and elevation. Surgery is rarely needed.
What are Risk Factors?
Risk factors for atherosclerosis are conditions or habits that increase the probability of developing hardening of the arteries. Commonly recognized risk factors include genetic predisposition, hypertension, diabetes, hyperlipidemia, and of course smoking. Lowering or eliminating risk factors can delay or prevent the development of clinically significant atherosclerosis. It is the most important part of the medical management of these disorders.