The Impact of Vascular Disease

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Vascular disease is a growing problem in industrialized nations where busy people have less time to exercise and eat more foods that are high in fats such as cholesterol and triglycerides. Family genes, diabetes, smoking and high blood pressure are other causes.

Vascular disease is an umbrella term that can include a number of conditions that affect the circulatory system. It encompasses everything from arterial disease, including peripheral artery disease; venous disease such as varicose veins, spider veins and Thoracic outlet syndrome; blood clots which are risk factors for stroke and heart attack; aortic aneurysm, and fibromuscular dysplasia.

The root causes of vascular disease can be fatal and even if not fatal, patients with peripheral artery disease may face leg amputation if not corrected early enough.

Vascular surgeon Dr. Anahita Dua works at the SolutionHealth Vascular Center, specializing in advanced aortic and limb salvage surgery. “I specialize in being able to save their legs and their lives by catching and fixing aneurysms in their bellies.”

She is actively researching anticoagulation and peripheral artery disease to determine the best blood thinners to use during surgery so that arteries do not collapse during corrective procedures.

Vascular disease is a global epidemic, Dr. Dua said. On average worldwide, doctors amputate a leg every 30 seconds. In the United States alone, 550 people have a leg amputated every day.

Diabetes is one of the leading causes for the growing number of cases of vascular disease. The number of cases of diabetes is doubling and tripling in parts of the world, especially in the United States, she said.

Vascular disease can be treated with lifestyle changes, medically, or surgically.

Dr. Dua recognizes the emotional suffering it can cause to have a leg amputated because of vascular disease, especially for senior patients who have lived fruitful lives and still want to walk and play with their grandchildren. Even if she is forced to cut off a leg, she cares for her patients holistically so they enjoy fulfilling lives going forward.

“We give them back the joy in their life and that is the thing that is pretty cool,” Dr. Dua said.

She did her vascular surgery training at Stanford University and then completed her residency at the Medical College of Wisconsin. In addition to being co-director of the PAD program at MGH, she is director of the MGH vascular lab and associate director of the MGH wound care center.