Vascular Surgery Tools

Dr. Patrick Neville with Memorial’s Heart and Vascular Center explains the techniques and tools used to treat vascular problems.

What are some of the tools you use in vascular surgery?

A vascular surgeon is trained to be able to diagnose and treat vascular problems. We’re able to offer patients both minimally invasive techniques and open procedures. When it comes to treating these types of problems in a minimally invasive manner, we do catheter-based techniques. Basically what that means is you go into a cath lab or an angio suite and through a needle stick in the groin or the arm we’re able to take pictures with catheters inside. A contrast dye highlights the blood flow, and it shows on screen using X-ray imaging where and how severe these blockages are. This technique can be used as a diagnostic tool, but we also have a lot of tools that fix and address those problems right then and there with various types of balloons, stents, or devices that actually can remove the disease that has built up over time.

The patient’s still awake, but we give them some medicine to kind of make them sleepy and a local anesthetic. For example, there’s a blockage in the leg and that person is having trouble walking, if we’re able to get a wire across that blockage, we can then use a balloon. Nowadays, there are various types of balloons we can use, even balloons that have drugs coated on them that then kind of push open that blockage. We’re also able to leave a stent in there to help the arteries stay open. There are also various types of devices called atherectomy or suction-type catheters that we can use that actually remove and actually kind of carve out some of that plaque or disease that has built up over time, and in doing so we’re able to then restore blood flow.