Atherosclerosis is a degenerative disease affecting arteries and in particular, the abdominal aorta, carotids and inferior limbs arteries. Genetic factors, smoking, cholesterol, diabetes and hypertension, are some of the causes.

Arteries transfer oxygenated blood in our body. The aorta is the biggest one and stems directly from the heart.

“Some people have an irreversible dilation of one or more arteries, that can be from two to ten times bigger than the normal diameter. They risk to collapse when they explode. just like bicycle tubes.Generally aneurysms have no symptoms before the rupture, which manifests itself, with a sharp back pain and a shock. Prevention is paramount. The examination needed to check the health status of your arteries is not invasive, but it is really accurate nevertheless”, explains Professor Efrem Civilini, Vascular Surgery Supervisor at Humanitas.

The role of aortic aneurysm surgery

If you have an aneurysm, surgical correction can prevent rupture. Professor Civilini also said: “The goal is preventing aneurysm rupture. The mere medical therapy is not enough. Reparation aims to substitute the diseased aorta, with a synthetic implant. This is molded according to the patient’s anatomy and sutured on the healthy part of the aorta, before and after the aneurysm.

In addition to this traditional method, an innovative therapy allows the securing of the aneurysm without the need to cut the abdomen. In this case, the surgeon uses a thinly sheathed endoprosthesis that is introduced via the groin, opened up like an umbrella, and mounted with a modular system in the right position”.

The vascular surgeon will evaluate the right approach based on the anatomical features of the aneurysm and the patient’s clinical picture.

Carotid and inferior limbs ailments

The carotid is the artery that pumps blood to the central nervous system, the head and the neck. Atherosclerotic plaques may create an obstruction and start an ictus, causing the death of some brain tissues. “Nowadays we perform surgeries under local anesthetic and in a much more refined way than in the past. We get rid of the plaques and remove the risk of ischemia”, Professor Civilini comments.

Instead, the obstruction of inferior limb arteries, may cause an ischemia with evident symptoms, such as lameness. “The seriousness of the disease becomes evident when the patient has to stop every 100-150 meters, waiting for the blood to get back to the legs’ muscles, bringing the necessary oxygen”.

Also in this case, surgeons perform the removal of the plaques. “In more severe cases, a bypass is needed, a little tube that substitutes the diseased artery”, Professor Civilini says.