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Contact: Angie Boyd-Chambers, (615) 284-7462, angie.boydchambers@sth.org

What’s the 'Vascular' in Cardiovascular?

The human body has two circulatory systems--the cardiovascular (vascular) system and the lymphatic system. 

So what exactly is the vascular system and what does it do? Simply put, the vascular system is the system of vessels (hollow tubes) for carrying blood.

There are three varieties of blood vessels:

  1. Arteries that carry oxygen-rich blood away from the heart to every part of the body
  2. Veins that carry the blood back to the heart
  3. Tiny capillaries that pass blood from the arteries to the veins

As the blood travels through the arteries, it enters smaller and smaller blood vessels reaching every cell in the body, dropping off nutrients and picking up waste and carbon dioxide. The blood then starts the trip back in the veins entering larger and larger vessels as it goes, passing through the liver on the way to drop off waste products. The blood eventually arrives back at the right side of the heart to start the trip all over again.

Sometimes this complex vascular system can develop diseases that can affect how blood travels.

Vascular disease is any condition that affects your circulatory system, such as peripheral artery disease. This ranges from diseases of your arteries, veins and lymph vessels to blood disorders that affect circulation.

So who treats problems of the vascular system?

Cardiovascular and vascular surgeons differ with respect to the parts of the body they treat. Cardiovascular surgeons address disorders affecting the organs of the chest, particularly the heart and its blood vessels. Such conditions include coronary artery disease, heart valve disease, conditions affecting the aorta and pulmonary (lung) blood vessels, and cardiac tumors.

Vascular surgeons specialize in treating the arteries, veins and lymphatic system in all areas of the body except those of the heart and brain. Vascular surgeons treat conditions such as blockages that can cause strokes or aneurysms (weakened areas in an artery wall that have the potential to rupture). They also specialize in conditions affecting the veins such as blood clots and varicose veins.

Visit saintthomasheart.com to find a cardiologist. 

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