Learn About What Vascular Surgeons Do\nA vascular surgeon diagnoses, treats, and manages conditions in your arteries and veins, also called your blood vessels. These specialists treat a range of health problems, from spider and varicose veins to life-threatening aneurysms, and can help patients manage chronic conditions throughout their lives.\nTraining for Vascular Surgeons\nTo become a vascular surgeon, a doctor undergoes several years of training, beginning with medical school and a medical residency.\nAfter medical school, doctors must complete an additional five to seven years of specialized training in order to become vascular surgeons. This includes training in both traditional vascular surgery procedures as well as in minimally invasive endovascular surgery. Surgeons may then become board-certified in vascular surgery by taking a rigorous exam that measures their expertise in the diagnosis and treatment of vascular disease.\nWhat Conditions Do Vascular Surgeons Treat?\nA vascular surgeon treats many conditions that affect the blood vessels in every part of your body except for your heart and brain. This can include:\n\nAneurysm, a bulge or weak spot in an artery\nAtherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries, where plaque builds up on your artery walls\nCarotid artery disease or peripheral artery disease (PAD), where the arteries that bring blood to your neck or limbs become narrow or blocked\nCompression disorders like nutcracker syndrome and thoracic outlet syndrome\nDialysis access, or the placement of a graft or fistula that allows you to receive dialysis treatment for kidney disease\nDeep vein thrombosis (DVT), a blood clot in a vein deep below your skin\nSpider veins, or small webs of veins just below the surface of the skin\nTrauma to arteries and veins caused by accidents or injuries\nVaricose veins, or large, swollen, twisted veins that can cause pain or aching in your legs\nVenous ulcers and arterial and diabetic (neuropathic) wounds, which are nonhealing wounds that result from poor blood flow, especially in the legs\n\nDiagnosing Vascular Disease\nTo make a diagnosis, your vascular surgeon will start by talking with you about your medical history, lifestyle, and symptoms and give you a physical exam. If necessary, your surgeon may order additional tests, which can include:\n\nAnkle brachial index, which is used to check the severity of PAD. During this test, your blood pressure is measured in both of your arms and both of your ankles, then compared.\nUltrasound, which can be used to diagnose many conditions. This test uses sound waves to make pictures of your blood vessels and is commonly used to diagnose aneurysms, carotid artery disease, and varicose veins.\n\nTreating Vascular Disease\nVascular surgeons develop treatment plans to fit each patient’s needs. Depending on your condition, this might include:\n\nLifestyle changes, like quitting smoking, becoming more active, and choosing healthy foods\nMedicines that lower your risk of blood clots\nCatheter-based procedures, such as:\n\nAblation, which safely closes damaged blood vessels\nAngioplasty, which uses a balloon to open up blocked arteries and veins\nStenting, which uses a tube of metal mesh to hold an artery or vein open to allow for healthy blood flow\n\n\nCompression therapy, which uses special stockings to help manage symptoms like pain and swelling and increase blood flow\nSclerotherapy, or injections that safely close spider veins and varicose veins\nThrombolysis, which dissolves dangerous blood clots either through injections or a catheter\nSurgery to repair or remove damaged or diseased blood vessels\n\nWhat is a vascular surgeon? Talking to your doctor\nBefore your appointment, write down a list of your symptoms, the medicines you take, and any questions you have. Some questions, even if they might seem simple, can include:\n\nWhat is my diagnosis?\nWhat are my options for treatment?\nWhat will this medicine do? Will I have side effects?\nHow long will my procedure take?\nHow often do you do this procedure?\nWhen will I be able to get back to my regular routine?\n\nIt’s a good idea to take notes, or ask someone to come with you to your appointment so you can have help remembering what your surgeon told you. And, if you need your surgeon to explain something again, or in a simpler way, don’t be afraid to ask. It’s very important to understand your condition and treatment options.\nTo schedule an appointment with a vascular surgeon at the UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute, call 412-802-3333.