What is a Vascular Surgeon and What Do They Do?

By HealthEngine

Last updated: 18 January 2018

What is a vascular surgeon?

A vascular surgeon is a surgeon who specialsies in managing conditions that affect the blood vessels. Their area of expertise is in performing operations to improve the circulation of blood around the body.

What do vascular surgeons treat?

Peripheral vascular disease

Arteries carry blood from the heart to the rest of the body. Atherosclerosis is the process where these vessels become narrowed and blocked by fatty cholesterol deposits.

As the vessels narrow people may get pain in a limb when they excercise it. A patient with a narrowed leg artery may get calf pain when they walk. This is called intermittent claudication.

As these narrowings worsen, pain may occur at rest.

Finally if an artery blocks completely the part of the body supplied by that artery may be irreversibly damaged. If this occurs to a limb it will become pale, pulseless, cold, numb and paralysed.

Vascular surgeons specialise in treating these narrowings.


Some blood vessels, particularly arteries bulge and may even burst like a balloon. These localised arterial bulgings are called aneurysms.

Venous disease

Veins carry blood from the peripheries back to the heart.

Problems with veins include bulging – varicose veins and vascular surgeons can operate to repair or remove these abnormal veins.

Leg ulcers

Leg ulcers are often associated with poor blood supply. They may become infected and require surgical treatment. Again vascular surgeons specialise in this.

Circulartory conditions

  • Abdominal aortic aneurysm
  • Buerger’s disease
  • Carotid artery disease
  • Critical limb ischaemia
  • Deep vein thrombosis
  • Peripheral vascular disease
  • Raynaud’s phenomenon
  • Renovascular hypertension
  • Varicose veins
  • Vascular malformation

Procedures vascular surgeons perform


This involves unblocking a narrowed or blocked blood vessel.

Generaly a wire is passed through the narrowing in the artery.

A small deflated balloon is then threaded over the wire to the site of maximal narrowing. It is inflated when in the narrowest section and this opens up the vessel.


This involves a similar procedure except that a tiny wire cage is place over the balloon as it is passed into the area of greatest narrowing.

As the balloon is inflated it expands the cylindrical wire cage and this holds the vessel open after the balloon is deflated and removed.


This involves removing a clot from within a blood vessel. It is usally an open surgical technique.

Bypass operation

When a vessel is irreversibly narrowed or blocked a surgical bypass is often performed.

A new segment of vessel (often a vein or another artery) is attached to the original vessel at either side of the narrowing and literally bypasses the blockage.

What to expect at your first appointment


Your vascular surgeon will ask questions about your symptoms – what problems you are getting. They should ask about risk factors for vascular disease, such as:

  • Smoking
  • High blood pressure
  • Diabetes
  • High cholesterol
  • A family history of vascular disease


Your vascular surgeon will then examine your blood vessels, feeling for pulses, checking blood pressure and looking for evidence of vascular disease.

Specialty areas of interest

  • Angiography, angioplasty and stenting
  • Carotid surgery
  • Peripheral vascular disease
  • Diabetic ulcers
  • Peripheral venous disease

Associated tests

Training and qualifications



A: Use HealthEngine to find and book your next Vascular Surgeon appointment. Click on the following locations to find a Vascular Surgeon clinic in your state or territory.


This article is for informational purposes only and should not be taken as medical advice. If in doubt, HealthEngine recommends consulting with a registered health practitioner.

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