While cardiovascular surgeons treat disorders that affect the heart and its blood vessels specifically, peripheral vascular surgeons treat conditions that affect the rest of the circulatory system. Included among these conditions are the following:
- Arteriosclerosis, in which the artery walls become abnormally thickened or hardened
- Arterial occlusion and embolism, in which undissolved material in the bloodstream (such as clumps of clotted blood or tissue fragments) blocks the blood flow in the artery, causing a loss of blood to tissue beyond the blockage
- Carotid occlusive disease, in which the carotid arteries (the arteries in the neck that supply the brain with blood) become blocked
- Aortic or femoral artery occlusive disease, in which the aorta (the main artery going through the chest and abdomen) or one of the femoral arteries (the main arteries that carry blood to the legs) becomes blocked
- Pulmonary embolism, a condition in which blood clots travel to the lungs
Specialists in peripheral vascular diseases can be internists with extensive cardiovascular training. For the most part, however, they are surgeons.
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