Vascular surgery can treat conditions that affect the blood vessels in your body. It may be recommended when vascular disease is advanced or increases your risk of serious health outcomes. There are different types of vascular surgery, including open surgeries and less invasive options.

Vascular surgery focuses on treating diseases that impact the vascular system, which is made up of the different blood vessels in your body.

A doctor who performs vascular surgery is called a vascular surgeon. A vascular surgeon has had training in general surgery, open vascular surgery, and endovascular surgery. As such, they can approach your problem with the best strategy for your situation

There are many different types of vascular surgery. Some of these are open surgeries, while others are less invasive endovascular procedures.

This article will take a closer look at when vascular surgery is needed, what types of procedures are used, and the potential risks involved.

Vascular disease includes conditions that affect your blood vessels, including your:

  • arteries, which carry oxygen-rich blood away from your heart and to the organs and tissues of your body
  • veins, which carry oxygen-depleted blood back to your heart to be reoxygenated in the lungs
  • capillaries, which are tiny blood vessels where your blood exchanges oxygen and nutrients for carbon dioxide and waste products

Some examples of vascular conditions include:

In addition to your blood vessels, vascular disease can also impact your lymphatic system, which drains fluid from your tissues and helps protect you from illness. An example of a condition that affects the lymphatic system is lymphedema.

Whether or not vascular surgery is needed depends on the type of vascular disease you have as well as its severity. A doctor will review these and other factors before recommending vascular surgery.

Overall, getting an early diagnosis and sticking to your treatment plan can go a long way in preventing the need for vascular surgery. Many vascular diseases can be managed through lifestyle changes and medications.

For example, lifestyle and medication treatments can work well for peripheral artery disease (PAD) when it’s not very severe. However, if the disease progresses and becomes worse, a doctor may recommend surgery to prevent complications and improve your quality of life.

In other vascular diseases, surgery may be critical in preventing serious health outcomes, such as severe internal bleeding. An example of this is repairing an aortic aneurysm before it can rupture.

Generally speaking, there are two types of vascular surgery: endovascular surgery and open surgery. Let’s examine each type in a little more detail now.

Endovascular surgery

Endovascular surgery is a type of minimally invasive surgery. This type of surgery uses much smaller incisions than open surgery. It also typically involves a shorter recovery time, a reduced hospital stay, and a lower risk of negative outcomes.

In endovascular surgery, a thin flexible tube called a catheter is placed into one of your blood vessels through a small incision in your skin. Many times, the incision for this type of surgery is made at your groin.

Depending on the type of procedure, different tools or medications are present in the catheter. These can then be used to do the procedure or apply the treatment directly in the blood vessel.

Some examples of surgical techniques that may be used during endovascular surgery include:

  • Ablation: Ablation applies heat to varicose veins in order to seal them off.
  • Angioplasty: Angioplasty involves using a balloon-like tool to open up a blood vessel. This can help improve blood flow in blood vessels that have narrowed. It’s often combined with stenting.
  • Stent placement: A stent is a mesh tube that’s placed into a blood vessel that has narrowed in order to help hold it open and improve blood flow.
  • Stent graft placement: A stent graft is a fabric tube that’s supported by a stent. It can be used as a part of an aortic aneurysm or dissection treatment to help support the area of the blood vessel that’s become weakened.
  • Thrombolytic therapy: This type of treatment involves the delivery of medications that help break up potentially dangerous blood clots.

Open surgery

Open surgery involves making an incision in order to provide direct access to a blood vessel. It uses a larger incision than endovascular surgery and can have a longer recovery time and hospital stay.

Generally speaking, many of the procedures that can be done using endovascular surgery can also be performed using open surgery.

However, with the rise of endovascular surgeries, open surgeries for vascular disease are becoming less common. In fact, a 2018 study found that the rate of open surgery for aortic aneurysms had fallen by close to 80% in the past decade.

Some types of vascular surgery still use an open procedure. One of these is called carotid endarterectomy. This is a surgery that’s used to treat carotid artery disease, which can affect blood flow to the brain.

In this surgery, the carotid artery is exposed via an incision in your neck. The surgeon uses a tool to remove plaque from the walls of the artery. A temporary bypass tube is placed to redirect the flow of blood during the procedure.

Another type of open vascular surgery is bypass surgery. A bypass can be used to treat blockages in blood vessels. It uses either a synthetic tube or a blood vessel from another part of the body to reroute the flow of blood.

All surgeries have some degree of risk, and vascular surgery is no different. The surgeon will inform you of any potential risks prior to your procedure.

Some of the risks associated with vascular surgery include:

There are some factors that may increase the risk of negative outcomes following vascular surgery. These include:

Before recommending vascular surgery, a doctor will weigh the risks and benefits of the procedure. In many, but not all situations, the potential benefits outweigh the risks, especially for more serious vascular disease.

Vascular surgery can help reduce the risk of experiencing more severe health problems like stroke and aneurysm rupture. It may also improve quality of life in people who were experiencing more serious symptoms.

Overall, endovascular surgery can have a shorter recovery time and hospital stay as well as a reduced risk of negative outcomes. However, it may not lead to better outcomes than open surgery.

For example, studies on endovascular versus open surgery for aortic aneurysm have found that long-term survival after endovascular surgery is the same or lower than after open surgery.

According to these studies, endovascular surgery was associated with a higher likelihood of needing another procedure for vascular disease.

If you have vascular disease, a doctor will review factors like your specific condition, its severity, and your age and overall health to help determine the type of vascular surgery that’s best for you.

Vascular surgery is used to treat conditions that affect your blood vessels. It may be recommended when vascular disease has become advanced or increases your risk of serious health outcomes.

There are two general types of vascular surgery: endovascular and open. Endovascular procedures are less invasive and have a shorter recovery time, but some may have long-term outcomes similar to those of open surgeries.

If a doctor recommends vascular surgery, have an open conversation about the types of procedures that are available as well as their risks and benefits. A doctor can help give you a realistic picture of what to expect.