A vascular surgeon is a doctor with special knowledge of the vascular system. He or she diagnoses, treats, and manages conditions of the arteries and veins. This includes a wide range of health problems, from spider veins to life-threatening aneurysms.
Blood vessels are the circulatory system’s roadways. Arteries carry oxygen-rich blood throughout the body, and the veins carry the blood back to the heart. If the blood is not flowing as it should, the body cannot function properly. Vascular surgeons are extensively trained to treat diseases of the vascular system.
Our surgeons at South Texas Vein Institute, Dr. Carlos Garcia-Cantu and Dr. John G. Orfanos, are dedicated to the treatment of spider, reticular (blue), and varicose veins. We use state-of-the-art equipment and advanced minimally-invasive techniques to treat vein problems in a comfortable, in-office setting.
How Much Medical Training Is Required for Vascular Surgeons?
A vascular surgeon is educated in the diagnosis, treatment, and management of diseases and conditions affecting all parts of the vascular system, with the exceptions of those occurring in the heart and brain. After medical school, the doctor undergoes additional training in a medical residency, followed by 5 to 7 more years of specialized training in general and vascular surgery. Our team of highly-skilled vascular surgeons at South Texas Vein Institute are committed to providing patients with the most advanced and effective treatments for a range of vein diseases and conditions.
What Conditions Do Vascular Surgeons Treat?
A wide range of conditions affecting the blood vessels in every part of the body (except the brain and heart) are treated by vascular surgeons. Examples of conditions vascular surgeons treat include:
- Atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries): This condition occurs when plaque builds up on the artery walls.
- Aneurysm: A bulge caused by weakening of an artery wall is known as an aneurysm.
- Carotid artery disease: In this condition, also known as peripheral artery disease (PAD), arteries that bring blood flow to the neck or limbs become blocked or narrow.
- Compression disorders: This includes nutcracker syndrome (compression of the vein that carries blood purified by the left kidney) and thoracic outlet syndrome (when blood vessels between the collar bone and first rib are compressed).
- Deep vein thrombosis (DVT): Deep vein thrombosis involves the formation of blood clots in the deep veins of the legs. This condition is also known as “economy class syndrome” because it is directly related to long periods of immobility, such as a long airplane flight where body motion is restricted.
- Spider veins: These are small webs of visible veins just below the surface of the skin.
- Trauma to the veins and arteries: This can occur with injuries and accidents, including automobile accidents.
- Varicose veins: In addition to cosmetic issues, large, swollen, twisted varicose veins can cause aching and pain in the legs.
- Venous ulcers and neuropathic wounds: Often associated with diabetes, these non-healing wounds result from poor blood flow, particularly in the legs.
How Do Vascular Surgeons Diagnose Vascular Disease?
The first step in diagnosis is a consultation to discuss your symptoms, medical history, and lifestyle, followed by a physical examination. If necessary, your vascular surgeon may order diagnostic testing, which may include:
- Ankle brachial index: This test is used to determine the severity of peripheral artery disease (PAD). It involves measuring and comparing blood pressure in both arms and both ankles.
- Doppler ultrasound: Doppler ultrasound technology allows your doctor to see blood flow through your veins and arteries. It can also find abnormal blood flow in a vessel, which may indicate a blockage. The amount of blood flow with each heartbeat is an indication of the size of the opening of a blood vessel.
- Color Doppler ultrasound: This enhanced form of Doppler ultrasound uses different colors to show the direction of the blood flow.
What Treatments Do Vascular Surgeons Provide?
Vascular surgeons are trained in both delicate and complex surgeries and minimally-invasive techniques. Patients receive the appropriate treatment for their individual needs, whether that involves open surgery, minimally-invasive endovascular procedures, or no surgery at all.
Treatment for vascular disease provided by a vascular surgeon may include:
- Lifestyle changes, such as better diet, more exercise, and quitting smoking
- Compression therapy, in which compression stockings are worn to increase blood flow and help manage, pain, swelling, and other symptoms
- Medications to lower the risk of blood clots
- Ablation (surgical removal of body tissues) to safely close damaged blood vessels
- Angioplasty, a procedure that uses a balloon to open blocked arteries and veins
- Stenting, in which a tube of metal mesh is used to hold a vein or artery open to allow for healthy blood flow
- Sclerotherapy, injections of special solutions to safely close varicose veins and spider veins
- Thrombolysis, in which dangerous blood clots are dissolved with injections or a catheter
- Surgery to repair diseased or damaged blood vessels
How Do I Know If I Need to See a Vascular Surgeon?
Vascular surgeons are specially trained to treat vascular conditions such as:
- Varicose veins
- Spider veins
- Reticular veins (blue veins)
- Deep vein thrombosis (DVT)
- Carotid artery disease
- Aortic aneurysms
- Peripheral artery disease (PAD)
Many patients are referred to a vascular surgeon by their primary care physician. Some patients become acquainted with a vascular doctor when they are hospitalized due to injury or illness. If you are in a high-risk category (smoker, diabetic, or high blood pressure) or if you have any of the health conditions listed above, it may be advisable to establish a relationship with a vascular surgeon.
Should I See a Vascular Surgeon for Varicose Veins and Spider Veins?
Spider veins and varicose veins are the most common vein disorders. Many patients want treatment for varicose and spider veins for cosmetic reasons. Swollen, blue, twisted veins visible under the surface of the skin can have a significant impact on the appearance of the legs.
Some patients experience symptoms with varicose veins that go beyond cosmetic, including:
- Tired, achy legs
- Color changes
- Skin ulcers
Advanced varicose vein and spider vein treatments are now available for patients who suffer with these common disorders. Minimally-invasive treatment options include
- Sclerotherapy — injecting the vein with an irritant which causes the vein to collapse
- RFA — a novel procedure with rapid recovery that uses radiofrequency energy to destroy the damaged vein
- Endovenous laser ablation – a minimally-invasive technique in which the faulty vein is destroyed with laser energy through a single laser fiber inserted into the vein
In addition to minimally-invasive procedures, conservative treatments (those that do not involve any kind of medical procedure) can also provide relief from varicose vein symptoms. These treatments may involve wearing compression hose, getting regular exercise, losing weight, avoiding prolonged sitting or standing, and elevating the legs. See a vascular surgeon in our South Texas facility to receive a custom-tailored treatment plan for varicose veins or spider veins.
Vascular Surgeons Do Far More than Surgery
Although vascular surgeons perform surgical treatments, they also treat many patients who do not require surgery and whose best options may be more conservative treatments, such as:
- Compression stockings
- Walking or other cardiovascular exercise for the legs
- Weight Loss
- Elevating the legs
- Avoiding prolonged sitting or standing
Many vascular conditions can be treated with exercise, medications, or minimally-invasive techniques. Before beginning any procedure, our vascular surgeons ensure that our patients are well-informed of all their treatment options.
Comprehensive Vein Treatment Services
Our surgeons at South Texas Vein Institute personally manage every aspect of patient vein care. This allows them to best diagnose and tailor a customized treatment for each individual patient.
Dr. John G. Orfanos and Dr. Carlos Garcia-Cantu personally perform all treatments in our practice. They focus on minimally-invasive techniques, which gives them the ability to treat a wide range of vein disorders effectively and efficiently, with minimal patient downtime. Services we provide include:
- Sclerotherapy: Treatment of varicose veins by injecting an irritant that causes inflammation, blood coagulation, and narrowing of the blood vessel wall.
- Radiofrequency ablation (RFA): A minimally-invasive procedure in which a small catheter and radiofrequency energy are used to treat varicose veins.
- Endovenous laser ablation: A minimally-invasive varicose vein treatment, performed on an out-patient basis, in which a laser fiber inserted directly into the vein is used to heat, collapse, and shrink the vein.
Follow-up is an essential but often overlooked aspect of vein care. Vein diseases are complex conditions unique to each individual. In treating the most significant vein problems, secondary disorders may be revealed. We provide attentive follow-up care to facilitate prompt management of secondary disorders for optimal long-term results.