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Vascular Vocab


Abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA) – A weakness or bulge of the main artery in the abdomen.

Acute limb ischemia (ALI) – This occurs when there is a severe lack of oxygen in the limb due to the blockage, causing pain, pale discolored skin, pulselessness and paralysis.

Amputation Surgical removal of a limb or portion of a limb. Above knee, below knee or partial foot are all varieties.

Aneurysm Abnormal weakening of the wall of an artery causing a “ballooning” appearance, enlarging to over twice normal size.

Angiogram– A specialized test using contrast injected into arteries to evaluate them for blockage.

Angioplasty (balloon) A procedure that widens arteries narrowed by arterial disease. A catheter with a deflated balloon is threaded through the narrowed artery to the narrowed part and then inflated to break the plaque and expand the artery.

Ankle-brachial index (ABI) A non-invasive method for testing for peripheral artery disease through the use of a Doppler probe and a blood pressure cuff on both the arms and ankles. Ideally, these two blood pressures should be equal. An ABI of greater the .96 is considered normal.

Antiplatelet Medication, including aspirin and newer agents used to prevent clumping together of platelets, one of the first things to occur in artery clotting.

Arteriogram An x-ray used to determine specific arterial blockages in the body, providing a road map of the arteries. The procedure involves inserting a small catheter into the artery that injects dye. Also called an angiogram.

Arteriovenous (AV) fistula A direct surgical connection of a vein to an artery, usually in the arm, used for hemodialysis.

Arteriovenous graft Connection of a vein to an artery using a man-made tube tunneled under the skin, used for hemodialysis.

Artery A pipeline (blood vessel) carrying oxygen-rich blood from the heart to the rest of the body. When diseased, the organ supplied may become damaged due to a lack of oxygen and nutrients.

Aspirin  A medication used to thin the blood.

Atherosclerosis, arteriosclerosis – From the Greek words athero (gruel or paste) and sclerosis (hardness). The process within the arteries where deposits of fatty substances, cholesterol, calcium or fibrin are built up in the inner lining (called plaques). A normal consequence of aging where the arterial walls gradually thicken and arterial fibers decline. The arteries become stiff.


Balloon – A device used to open narrowed arteries.

Blood pressure – The force of blood pushing against blood vessel walls.

Bypass  An open surgical procedure done to redirect blood flow around a blocked artery.


Calcified vessels – When an artery becomes hardened from calcium deposits in the wall. Often seen in diabetes. Affects the ability to make accurate pressure measurements in the legs.

Carotid artery The carotid artery is the major artery providing blood flow to the brain from the heart. It is located in the front of the neck. Carotid artery disease may develop when sufficient plaque development builds up in the neck. This can break free from the artery (embolism) and travel upstream to the brain, potentially causing a stroke.

Catheter – A tiny flexible tube inserted in a blood vessel to inject dye, assist with the removal of a blood clot or inject medication.

Chronic venous insufficiency (CVI) A disease in the veins that causes leg swelling, pain and varicose veins.

Claudication occurs because a blocked artery is interfering with the amount of oxygen-rich blood that can reach the muscles in one or both of the arms or legs, resulting in cramps or fatigue with exercise. Pain is relieved by rest (within 10 min).

Collateral circulation – The slow development of smaller peripheral arteries to allow some blood flow around the narrowed/blocked area of an artery. This occurs as an adaptation when an artery is slowly blocked with plaque over time.

Compression therapy The use of tight wraps or special stockings to control swelling in the leg or arm.

Contrast dye – A radiopaque liquid injected into arteries during an angiogram to evaluate the arteries for blockages.

Coronary artery disease (CAD) occurs when the arteries that supply blood to the heart muscle become hardened and narrowed due to atherosclerosis

Coumadin– A medication used to thin the blood.

Critical limb ischemia (CLI) severe obstruction of the arteries which markedly reduces blood flow to the extremities (hands, feet and legs) and has progressed to the point of severe pain and even skin ulcers or sores.

Computed tomography (CTA) – a special kind of CT exam focusing particularly on the blood vessels, using a contrast material to make them show up clearly in the images. The dye injected “lights up” the blood vessels and tissues that are being studied. CTA is used to examine blood vessels in areas of the brain, neck, chest and abdomen to help locate blockages. 


Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) Clotting within the vein caused from an injury, immobility or abnormal clotting factors. Usually in the leg.

Diabetes mellitus A metabolic disorder in which the body does not produce insulin (type 1) or when the body does not make enough or cannot properly use insulin (type 2).

Diabetic foot ulcer – A painless ulcer that usually develops on the bottom of the foot in diabetics caused by an injury and worsened from lack of normal sensation (neuropathy).

Diabetic neuropathy – A disease of the nerves in the hands and feet of people with diabetes that causes altered feelings of pain, heat or cold, often diminishing normal sensation.

Digital gangrene – Sores or ulcers can develop on the fingertips of the hand related to loss of blood flow or tissue injury. The presence of digital gangrene may imply several serious medical disorders.

Doppler – A diagnostic tool that uses low-intensity ultrasound to visualize and detect blood flow velocity in arteries or veins. Duplex is a diagnostic tool that combines Doppler and ultrasound.


Edema – Swelling or fluid collection in the tissues.

Endarterectomy – The removal of plaque from the inner wall of a diseased artery by surgery.

Endograft – A graft placed inside the blood vessel to treat aneurysms.

Endovascular – Repair or reconstruction of an artery from within using minimally invasive techniques.


False aneurysm – An injury to the layers of the artery that allows blood to leak outside of the vessel and is held by the surrounding tissues.

Femoral artery – The large artery in the leg which extends from hip to knee. Often the bypass grafts start at this point.

Functional Status – A patient’s ability to perform normal daily activities required to meet basic needs, fulfill usual roles and maintain overall health and well-being.


Gangrene – Dead tissue due to a lack of blood supply.

Graft – A small synthetic tube used for bypass surgery and AV fistulas.

Guideline-directed management and therapy (GDMT) Patients with asymptomatic PAD should receive a comprehensive program of guideline-directed management and therapy (GDMT), which includes a structured exercise and lifestyle modification programs, to reduce cardiovascular events, such as stroke or heart attack and improve function.


Hemodialysis – Filters blood using a man-made filter attached to a machine. Blood travels from your body, is cleansed by the machine, then returned to your body.

Hypertension (HTN) When the pressure in the arteries is consistently above the normal range, leading to an increased risk of stroke or heart attack. Also known as high blood pressure.


Intermittent claudication – symptoms that occur when the leg muscles do not receive the oxygen-rich blood required during exercise, thus causing cramping in the hips, thighs or calves. The patient still experiences fatigue, discomfort, cramping or pain in the muscles of the lower extremities while at rest.

Ischemia An organ (heart, brain, kidneys, or foot, for example) that is not getting adequate blood flow and lacks vital oxygen and nutrients, preventing normal function.


Laser – Concentrated light beam, sometimes used in the treatment of varicose veins.

Leg bypass – A vein or plastic tube is sewn in place to redirect the blood flow around a diseased portion of a blood vessel in the leg.

Leg ulcers Open areas that can occur when blood flow is impaired causing skin breakdown. Arterial ulcers usually affect the toes and feet. Venous ulcers usually occur around the ankles and up to the knees.

Lipids Another term for fats that can be broken down into fatty acids.

Lipoproteins – Proteins that transport cholesterol and other fats to and from cells. LDL is the subtype most dangerous for peripheral artery disease. HDL is beneficial in prevention.

Lymphedema– Swelling that occurs as a result of blockage within the lymphatic vessels of the limbs. There are multiple causes of lymphedema. Compression is the usual mainstay of therapy.


Magnetic resonance angiography (MRA) A type of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan that uses a magnetic field and pulses of radio wave energy to provide pictures of blood vessels inside the body. A standard MRI is unable to capture a good image of the blood vessels and blood flow to be of any use to vascular surgeons.


NoninvasiveMedical procedures or exams which do not involve needles, dye or x-ray to diagnose arterial diseases.

Non-Viable LimbCondition of the lower extremity which includes loss of motor function, neurological function, and tissue integrity cannot be restored with treatment.


Perfusion – the passage of blood, a blood substitute or other fluid through the blood vessels or other natural channels in an organ or tissue.

Peripheral artery disease (PAD)also known as Peripheral Vascular Disease, is a very common medical condition in which a build-up of plaque due to atherosclerosis makes it difficult for blood to circulate through the arteries. PAD primarily affects the legs, but can also damage arteries in the kidneys, abdomen, feet, ankles, pelvis, hips, buttocks and arms.

Plaque – The build-up of material on the inner lining of an artery made up of cholesterol and fatty substances.

Popliteal artery The artery behind the knee that supplies blood to the lower leg.


Rest pain – The onset of constant leg pain that occurs at rest. This may be due to severe lack of blood flow to the limbs.

Revascularization – Surgical procedures to restore blood flow within the artery such as laser atherectomy, angioplasty and stenting)

Ruptured aneurysm – When the enlarged vessel leaks, typically in the abdominal aorta.


Salvageable limb – Condition of the lower extremity with the potential to preserve motor function and viability to the weight-bearing portion of the foot if treated.

Skin perfusion pressure (SPP) – The pressure required for restoring microcirculatory blood flow following the release of carefully controlled occlusion. The measurement of Skin Perfusion Pressure (SPP) with laser Doppler is a non-invasive test.

Stasis dermatitis – Inflammation in the skin, often caused by chronic swelling.

Stasis ulcer – A skin ulcer, usually caused by chronic swelling, varicose veins and chronic venous insufficiency.

Stenosis – A narrowing of a blood vessel, such as an artery or vein.

Stents – Wire mesh tubes that are surgically placed within the artery (recently cleared through angioplasty) via a catheter threaded through the artery. It is opened to form a rigid support to hold the clogged artery open to potentially prevent recurrent narrowing.

Stroke – When blood flow to a part of the brain is stopped, even briefly. Symptoms can be numbness or weakness of the arms or legs, sudden changes in vision or loss of vision in one eye, slurring of words or facial droop.

Subclavian artery – Artery that branches off of the aorta in the chest and supplies blood to the arm.

Superficial phlebitis – Inflammation in a superficial vein causing pain, redness and a hard lump. Usually due to a blood clot.

Swelling – Collection of excess fluid.


Thrombolysis – A radiology procedure that uses medication to help dissolve blood clots in the arterial or venous system.

Thrombosis  Blockage in an artery or vein.


Ultrasonic duplex scanning The diagnostic test for peripheral artery disease that produces images of arteries or veins on a screen via the use of ultrasound equipment. This test is used to locate blocked arteries or measure their size.

Ultrasound test – A test commonly used in the diagnosis of vascular diseases using special equipment that measures and evaluates structure under the skin, i.e.: arteries, veins, kidneys, aneurysm etc.


Vascular medicine – A branch of medicine that deals primarily in medical treatment of vascular diseases.

Vein stripping – A surgical procedure that involves removing the diseased vein through several small incisions.

Veins – Blood vessels that carry blood from the body back to the heart.

Vessels – The tube-like structures in the circulatory system that are responsible for circulating blood within the body. The three kinds of vessels are arteries, veins and lymphatics. Capillaries are microscopic structures that connect arteries and veins at the tissues.

The information contained in this website is neither intended to dictate what constitutes reasonable, appropriate or best care for any given health issue, nor is it intended to be used as a substitute for the independent judgment of a physician for any given health issue. Patient results will vary based on risk factors, age, disease and medical history. Please seek physician's advice. Like any procedure, it may come with benefits, risks or side effects associated. Click here for additional information.

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