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Queens Chronicle

PRIME TIMES: 50 PLUS Make your circulatory health a priority

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Posted: Thursday, February 6, 2014 10:30 am

At New York Hospital Queens, expert vascular and endovascular surgeons can treat circulatory conditions, from silent killers, such as aortic aneurysms, to non-life-threatening issues, such as varicose veins.

Minimally invasive treatment options may lead to shorter hospital stays, faster recovery times and fewer infections. Below are some of the most common conditions that the hospital’s experts screen for and treat.

Aortic Aneurysms form when the aorta develops a bulge. The aorta is our body’s largest artery; it carries blood from the heart throughout the body. Left untreated, this bulge in the aorta can grow and eventually rupture. Ruptures cause internal bleeding and death. Aortic aneurysms are known as “silent killers” because individuals may not show symptoms until the aneurysm has ruptured.

Some people are at a higher risk for aortic aneurysms. Dr. Rajeev Dayal, chief, Section of Vascular Surgery, and his colleagues Dr. Andy Lee and Dr. Ankur Chawla, recommend screenings for individuals who:

• Are age 60 or older

• Have a family history of aortic aneurysm

• Have smoked

• Have high blood pressure, atherosclerosis, or chronic lung disease

Aortic aneurysms larger than 5 centimeters usually require repair. Most aortic aneurysms can be treated minimally invasively using stents. Stents are small devices placed within the aneurysm to support it and keep it from expanding. The procedure is performed via small incisions in the groin and frequently, the procedure does not require general anesthesia.

Patients with aortic aneurysms close to the kidneys or other arteries may require a graft, which acts like a bridge for blood flow, instead of a stent.

Peripheral arterial disease (PAD) is a condition where plaque builds up in the arteries of the leg and slows blood flow. Plaque is a waxy substance made up of fat, cholesterol, calcium and other substances in the blood.

One common symptom that indicates the beginnings of peripheral arterial disease is when people get pain in their legs when they walk. When at rest, the pain lessens, but when walking continues, the pain starts again. To diagnose PAD, doctors can measure blood pressure in the leg and compare it with blood pressure in the arm. Lower pressure in the leg may be a sign of PAD. An ultrasound, an MRI or a CT scan can show the degree of blockage from plaque.

Depending on the blockage, people with PAD may require a stent or bypass surgery to reroute blood past the blockage with a blood vessel from another part of your body.

Varicose veins are dilated veins in the legs that you can see under the skin, and are more common in women (especially after pregnancy). Weakened or damaged valves that help keep blood flowing toward your heart can cause varicose veins. As blood backs up and begins to pool, the veins bulge and swell.

Many factors can increase an individual’s risk for varicose veins, including family history, older age, gender, pregnancy, being overweight or obese, and lack of movement. People with varicose veins may not always have symptoms, aside from the bulging appearance, but the veins do need to be checked by a physician. Some people with varicose veins may notice pain, weakness in the legs, and ankle swelling or itchiness.

Treatment for people with these symptoms is typically covered by insurance. The first-line treatment option uses lasers to remove “bad” veins. Other treatment options include removing the veins surgically or closing veins with injections in a procedure called sclerotherapy. Insurance does not typically cover the sclerotherapy procedure as it is considered cosmetic.

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