Vascular Surgery Procedures & Terms

Abdominal Aorta:  The part of the largest artery in the body (i.e., the aorta) that
resides in the abdomen area.  

Aneurysm:  An artery that buldges or protrudes from an arterial wall due to
weakening of the wall.

Angiogram:  A medical procedure wherein a dye is injected into an artery and xrays
are taken.  The xrays will identify any blockage in the arteries.  

Angiogenesis: The growth of new blood vessels (natural or drug-induced) to help
reduce coronary artery disease.  New blood vessels will reroute blood flow around
clogged arteries.

Angioplasty:  A medical procedure wherein an instrument (i.e., a catheter with a
balloon tip) is inserted into a coronary artery that has been blocked by plaque.  The
balloon is then inflated to decrease the plaque and stretch the artery.   This is also
known as: Percutaneous Translumnial Coronary Angioplasty (PTCA).

Anticoagulant:  A medicine that keeps blood from clotting by thinning the blood.

Aorta:  The largest blood vessel (i.e., artery) in the body that carries blood from the
heart to the rest of the body.  

Aortic Aneurysm:  The aorta buldges or protrudes due to the weakening of the blood
vessel wall.

Arteriography:  A procedure wherein a dye (radiopaque contrast material) is injected
into an artery and xray equipment is then used to identify blockages and other
abnormalities of the arteries.  

Arteritis:  Inflammation of the arteries.

Atherosclerosis:   A disease that is commonly referred to as "hardening of the
arteries."  This hardening of the arteries may be caused by deposits of fatty
substances, calcium, cholesterol, cellular waste, blood clotting or platelets in the inner
lining of the artery wall. These deposits may buildup and result in plaque which causes
the artery walls to get thick and lose their elasticity.

Arteries:  blood vessels which carries oxygen-rich blood away from the heart.

Atherectomy (Directional Coronary Atherectomy or DCA): A medical procedure to
clean out clogged arteries.  A catheter, which has a cutting cylinder on the tip, is
threaded through the artery.  The cutting cylinder shaves off the unwanted placque
build up.  The catherter collects the unwanted material and it is removed from the
body.  This process can be repeated and allows the blood to flow better.

Balloon Angioplasty or Balloon  Catheter (Percutaneous Transluminal Coronary
Angioplasty or PTCA):
 A medical procedure to open up clooged arteries.  A long tube-
like device which has a small balloon on the tip is threaded through the artery.   Once
the balloon tip reaches the affected area, the balloon is inflated.  This compresses the
placque into the artery wall and stretches it to allow the blood to flow more freely.

Blood Clot:   Blood that thickens and coagulates forming a mass.  During an injury,
clots help stop the flow of blood.  A clot forming in a vessel (artery) or heart chamber
but does not move is known as thrombus.  Blot clots that move and disrupt the flow of
blood are referred to as embolus or an embolism.

Blood Pressure:  As blood circulates throughout the body it exerts force in the
arteries.  This force is called blood pressure.   There are two forces that are measured.
One, the force of blood as the heat contracts (this is called systolic) and the force
when the heart fills with blood (this is called diastolic).

Bypass:   An artery, which supplies blood to the heart or other organ, may become
severly clogged or diseased.  A surgical procedure can take a healthy artery or vein
(from another area) and regraft it around the diseased section.  This will improve the
blood flow to the heart or other organ.

Calcium-Channel Blocker: A drug which alleviates blood vessel spasms, lowers blood
pressure, and controls angina.  The drug acts by blocking cell calcium asorption.

Capillaries:  Small oxygen-rich blood vessels that connect arteries to veins. These
blood vessels also carry other nutrients to cells throughout the body

Carotid Artery Disease:   There are two carotid arteries in the neck that supply blood
to the neck, face  and brain.  Disease results when placque builds up in the walls of
these arteries causing a “hardening of the arteries” (refer to atherosclerosis).

Catheter: A slender, hollow flexible tube which may have a balloon or cutting cylinder
on the tip.

Cerebral Thrombosis:   A blood clot that forms in an artery to the brain.

Cerebrovascular:   The blood vessels and arteries that supply blood to the brain.

Cerebrovascular Accident (CVA):   This is commonly referred to as a stroke.  A CVA
occurs when brain cells are damaged from a lack of oxygen.  This can happen when the
flow of blood to the brain is blocked or an artery to the brain ruptures.  

Cholesterol:  An fatty substance that develops naturally in the body or is found in
animal fats, dairy and other foods.  Cholesterol is travels through the blood and can be
deposited in the arteries (such as in coronary artery disease).

Circulatory System:  The system involving blood vessels for the purpose of supplying
oxygenated blood and nutrients to vital organs (e.g., lungs, heart).

Claudication:  A cramping pain in the usually in the legs caused by poor blood
circulation (a lack of oxygen to the muscles).  This may create a temporary limp.

Collateral Circulation:   Blood flow through small blood vessels that are usually closed
but open in response to blockage of a primary blood vessel.

Coronary Artery Disease (CAD):  The coronary arteries become blocked by plaque.  
The coronary arteries are the blood vessels that supply oxygen-rich blood to your
heart muscles.

Cyanosis:   Refers to the blue color of skin which is caused by insufficient oxygen in the
blood vessels near the skin.

Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT):   A blood clot in a deep vein (predominantly in the legs
or pelvis and occasionally in the arms).

Diabetes (Type 1): Bodies that produce little to no insulin may develop this type of
diabetes.  The cells throughout the body need insulin (i.e., glucose) for energy.  The
affect is that "blood" glucose then rises.  This can also damage the pancreas.  Insulin
injections are needed to control blood glucose.

Diabetes (Type 2): Although the body may (or may not) produce insulin, it does not
know how to use ir properly. The diagnosis for Type 2 diabetes is higher than Type 2.

Dissecting Aneurysm:   A condition in which the layers of an artery are torn, causing
blood to flow between the layers. Dissecting aneurysms usually happen in the thoracic
aorta, which is the large vessel that carries blood from the heart to other parts of the
body.  This is an extremely serious, often fatal, condition.

Doppler Ultrasound:  A technical device that uses sound waves to assess the flow of
blood through blood vessels.

Edema:   Swelling caused by fluid accumulation in cells or tissues.

Embolism: Refer to embolus.

Embolus:   A blood clot that forms in one part of the body and travels to another part
blocking the flow of blood (also known as an embolism).

Endarterectomy:   Surgical removal of plaque deposits on the inner lining of an artery.  
Build-up of plaque on the inner lining may be caused by atherosclerosis.

Ischemia:   A decrease in blood flow to tissue or an organ due to blood vessel
constriction or obstruction.

Ischemic Stroke:  A type of stroke that is caused by blockage in a blood vessel
(thrombosis or embolism).

Inferior Vena Cava (IVC):  The largest vein in the body that returns blood from the
legs and abdomen to the heart.

Jugular Veins (Internal and External):  The veins that carry blood to the heart from
the head.

Lumen:  The hollow area within a blood vessel.

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI):   A radiology technique that uses magnetism,
radio waves, and a computer to produce images of body structures.

Necrosis:  Death of tissue or cells within a localized area due to injury or disease.

Occluded Artery:   Impaired blood flow due to blockage in an artery.

Percutaneous Translumnial Coronary Angioplasty (PTCA):   A medical procedure
wherein an instrument (i.e., a catheter with a balloon tip) is inserted into a coronary
artery that has been blocked by plaque.  The balloon is then inflated to decrease the
plaque and stretch the artery.   This is also known as: Angioplasty.

Plaque:   A fatty or other substance (e.g., cholesterol, white blood cells, calcium)
deposited in the inner lining of the artery wall.  This is very typical of atherosclerosis.

Platelets:   A type of cell found in blood plasma that helps the blood clot.  Also known
as a blood platelet (thrombocyte).

Pulmonary Embolism (PE):   A condition in which a blood clot that has formed
elsewhere in the body travels to the lungs. This is a very serious condition.

Restenosis:   The re-closing or re-narrowing of an artery after a corrective procedure
such as angioplasty or stent placement.

Revascularization:   A procedure to restore blood flow to the tissues or an organ.

Risk Factors:  A characteristic, condition, or behavior that increases the possibility of
disease or injury.  Examples of risk factors include: smoking, age, sex, high blood
pressure, high cholesterol, etc.

Sheath:  A thin tube placed inside a blood vessel during a surgical procedure which
helps with proper placement of a catheter.

Shunt:   A surgical procedure to connect or divert blood to flow between two locations.

Stenosis:  The narrowing of an opening or passage way, such as a blood vessel or
heart valve.

Stent:   A slender element (e.g., thread, catheter) that is used to support or keep an
atery open during a medical procedure (such as a balloon catheter).  

Stroke:   Also known as Cerebrovascular Accident (CVA).   A stroke occurs when brain
cells are damaged from a lack of oxygen.  This can happen when the flow of blood to
the brain is blocked or an artery to the brain ruptures.  

Superior Vena Cava (SVC):  The compression of the large vein that carries blood
down to the heart from the head and arms.

Thrombolysis:  The process of destroying or desolving a blood clot.

Thrombosis:  A blood clot that forms inside the blood vessel or vein.

Thrombolytic Therapy:   A treatment plan involving drugs to dissolve blood clots in an

Thrombus:  See blood clot.

Transient Ischemic Attack:   An  event caused by the temporary disruption of blood
flow to a restricted area of the brain (also known as a mini stroke).  The condition
usually lasts only a short time (less than 24 hours) and result in brief neurologic

Ultrasound:  Medical equipment that uses high-frequency sound waves to produce
images of body parts or organs.  The images are assist medical diagnosis.

Varicose Vein:   Any vein that is bulging or swollen and protrudes from the skin

Vascular:   The body system involving the blood vessels (e.g., veins and arteries)
which carry blood throughout the body.

Vascular Headache:  Pain caused by the swelling of blood vessels in the brain (e.g.,
headache, migrane).

Vasoconstriction:  The blood vessels constrict making it harder for blood to flow and
raising blood pressure.

Vasodilation:  The expansion (or dilation) of blood vessels in the body which allows
blood to flow more easily and reduces blood pressure.

Vasodilator:  A medicine that helps dilates blood vessels (causes vasodilation). Often
prescribed to allow blood to flow more easily around a blood clot.

Veins:  A type of the blood vessel that carries blood to the heart.
FAQs:  Vascular Surgery
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