Vascular Disease

What is vascular disease?

Vascular disease is a term given to any condition that affects your vascular or circulatory system. Types of vascular disease include aneurysm, peripheral artery and vascular disease, venous disease, and renal failure. Vascular disease can be caused by a number of factors, including atherosclerosis, trauma, vasculitis (inflammation), and genetics. Common vascular disease symptoms are numbness in the legs, varicose veins, aching in the feet or toes, pain in the buttocks, and wounds that won’t heal. Left untreated, vascular diseases increase your risk for heart attack and stroke. At the Allegheny Health Network (AHN) Cardiovascular Institute, our experienced surgeons have performed thousands of procedures to treat the various types of vascular disease. They use some of the most cutting-edge treatments and technologies to ensure that you have the best possible results.

Types of vascular diseases

Vascular diseases include any conditions that affect your circulatory system of arteries, veins, and lymph vessels, such as:

Aortic Aneurysm

Your aorta, the largest artery in your body, carries blood from your heart to the rest of your body. Aneurysms occur when blood pools in a weakened part of the aortic wall, causing a bulge.

Carotid artery disease

Carotid arteries provide oxygen-rich blood to your brain. Plaque deposits made up of cholesterol, fat, and other substances can build up in your arteries causing atherosclerosis.

Peripheral artery disease (PAD)

Peripheral arteries carry blood to your legs, arms, stomach, and head. People with PAD have a higher risk of heart attack, stroke, and other complications.

Varicose veins

Varicose veins are enlarged, twisted veins. While any vein can become varicose, most people get them on their legs. In most cases, varicose veins are mainly a cosmetic concern; however, they can be a source of pain and discomfort in some people.

Renal failure

Renal failure, also known as kidney failure, occurs when the kidneys can no longer function on their own to filter waste out of your blood. This condition can occur over time or suddenly within a few hours. If left untreated, renal failure can lead to death.

Pulmonary vascular disease vs. peripheral vascular disease

Pulmonary vascular disease is used to describe any condition that affects the blood vessels traveling from the heart to the lungs and generally causes shortness of breath. In contrast, peripheral vascular disease is a blood circulation disorder that causes the blood vessels outside of your heart and brain to narrow, block, or spasm. This condition can cause pain and fatigue, especially in your legs.

Arterial vs. venous disease

Arterial and venous ulcers are two types of open sores that can be found on the body, but they often form on the legs or feet. Arterial ulcers are created from damage to the arteries due to lack of blood flow to the tissue. Venous ulcers develop from damage to the veins due to an inadequate flow of blood back to the heart. Both types of ulcers can take months to heal, and sometimes they don’t heal at all.

Vascular disease symptoms

Common signs of vascular disease include:

  • Pale or bluish skin.
  • No hair growth on legs.
  • Sores that won’t heal on toes, feet, or legs.
  • Cold feet or legs.
  • Gangrene.
  • Impotence.
  • Numb or tingly feeling in the muscles.
  • Restricted mobility.
  • Varicose veins.

Vascular disease care at AHN: Why choose us?

Our prompt, accurate diagnosis enables you to start treatment sooner and see improvements faster. We offer:

Advanced treatments

We specialize in minimally invasive endovascular therapies to open clogged arteries. These procedures take place inside blood vessels via a catheter (thin, hollow tube). You may undergo an endovascular procedure if health problems or other factors make conventional surgery too risky. For you, a minimally invasive surgery means a faster return to daily activities, less pain, and reduced blood loss.

Individualized care

Our vascular team customizes a treatment plan based on your health condition and needs. You also have the opportunity to participate in clinical trials for new therapies at the Cardiovascular Research Institute.

Lifestyle support services

PAD is a chronic, lifelong condition. You can work with our registered dietitians and certified exercise physiologists, as well as participate in our cardiovascular rehabilitation program, to you make healthy changes to protect your heart.

Dedicated team of experts

Our physicians are among the most experienced vascular specialists in the country. Your physician works collaboratively with leading cardiologists and other physicians to provide a prompt diagnosis and a targeted treatment plan.

Diagnosing vascular disease

Your physician may order one or more of these tests to make a diagnosis:

Ankle-brachial index (ABI)

This test compares blood pressure readings in your ankles and arms to gauge how well blood is flowing to your limbs.

Doppler and ultrasound (duplex) imaging

This test uses sound waves to show blood flow and blockages in arteries and veins.


During this procedure (also called an arteriogram), your physician injects a contrast dye into an artery and takes X-ray images as the dye moves through the artery.

Computed tomography angiogram (CTA)

Your physician injects a contrast dye into a vein in your arm or leg and uses a CT scan (series of X-rays) to monitor blood flow and check for carotid artery disease.

Magnetic resonance angiogram

Your physician injects a contrast dye into a vein in your leg and uses magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) technology to check blood flow as the dye moves through your blood vessels. Learn more about cardiovascular imaging.

Treating vascular diseases

Treatment options for peripheral artery disease (PAD), peripheral vascular disease (PVD), varicose veins, atherosclerotic vascular disease, and other types of vascular disease include:

Medication management

Your physician may recommend blood thinners, blood pressure medications, or cholesterol-lowering drugs to decrease your stroke risk.

Bypass surgery

Your physician takes healthy arteries or veins from another part of your body to create a graft that bypasses a blocked or narrowed artery. Learn more about bypass surgery.

Endovascular therapy

This minimally invasive procedure takes place inside your arteries using a thin, hollow tube called a catheter inserted through the femoral artery in your groin. Endovascular therapy options for PAD include:

Angioplasty and stenting

Your physician inflates and deflates a balloon on the tip of the catheter to open the artery. Next, your physician places a permanent stent, or small wire mesh tube, into the artery to keep it open.

Thrombolytic therapy

We were the first in the region to offer the Lutonix® ** 035 drug-coated balloon catheter to open blocked arteries. This balloon device delivers blood clot-dissolving medication directly into a blocked artery using a single balloon inflation.

Contact us

Call (412) DOCTORS (412) 362-8677 or request an appointment to AHN cardiovascular services.


Lutonix is a registered trademark of BD BARD and is used with permission.