Blood is pumped away from the heart in arteries and returns via the veins. This ‘circulatory system’ is essential for providing organs with essential oxygen and other nutrients they require to function.
Problems arise when blood cannot flow smoothly through this system. Vascular surgery is a branch of medicine that specialises in the diagnosis and treatment of blood vessel disorders. Vascular surgeons are the experts that specialise in providing a range of treatments, including surgery, to maintain the function of the body’s circulatory system.
Vascular Surgery at the Royal Free Hospital Private Patients Unit
Here at the Royal Free Hospital Private Patients Unit (PPU) we offer a wide array of vascular services, provided by our multidisciplinary team of leading specialists. The PPU combines the convenience, comfort and personalised attention of a private hospital with the very best state-of-the-art services, technology and professional experience expected from a top London NHS teaching hospital.
We are unique in that all of the profit that is made each year is reinvested back into the NHS services at the Royal Free Hospital trust, and this contributes to the world-class care that our hospitals provide.
Conditions we treat
Our specialists and their teams are trained to provide a high standard of care for a variety of vascular problems, including:
Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD)
This describes a narrowing of the arteries supplying the limbs due to build-up of fatty deposits or ‘atheroma’. It usually develops in the legs, initially causing pain when walking, known as claudication, but can progress to rest pain, ulceration and even gangrene. PAD commonly affects people over the age of 50 years, occurring in up to 1 in 5 men and 1 in 8 women within this age group. Smoking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and, in particular, diabetes are major risk factors.
Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm (AAA)
This is a condition of the aorta (the main artery from the heart that runs through the chest into the abdomen). An aneurysm occurs when a weakness in the wall causes the artery to enlarge due to the constant pulsatile pressure inside. This is often painless and unsuspected, but is at risk of enlargement and rupturing. In the UK, a national screening programme for AAA is offered to men aged over 65 years.
These are sections of veins just beneath the skin that lose their elasticity and become dilated with time. In many people, they are often unproblematic but unsightly and uncomfortable. However in some, severe varicose veins cause pain, skin changes, ankle ulceration or bleeding.
Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT)
DVT is caused by a clot within a vein, usually in the leg. It occurs when blood is static for too long due to a period of immobility, such as following surgery or on a long-haul flight, or in situations where the blood is prone to coagulation. People over the age of 60 years and some pregnant women are at the greatest risk.
This is caused by a disruption of the blood supply to the brain. It may be temporary and resolve, in what is known as a Transient Ischaemic Attack (TIA). In more serious cases, a stroke can occur, which frequently results in irreversible brain damage if not treated urgently. Strokes can be quickly recognised by using the acronym FAST: Facial weakness, Arm weakness, Speech problems, Time to call 999.
What we offer
Our vascular surgeons are trained to perform a wide array of treatments and procedures, in conjunction with our expert multidisciplinary team of specialists:
Meet our consultants
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