Vascular surgery is a surgical specialty focusing the arteries and veins that carry blood through the body. Many diseases and conditions affect the vascular system, including coronary heart disease, arteriosclerosis, deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism. Vascular surgeons perform operations to repair damaged arteries and veins and to remove blockages from arteries and veins clogged with plaque or blood clots.
Most vascular surgeons start by earning a bachelor’s degree in a science-related field such as physics, biology or chemistry. After college, prospective vascular surgeons attend medical school for four years. They then take the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) in order to obtain a medical license, according to the USMLE website.
After earning his medical license, a prospective vascular surgeon must undergo a five-year general surgery residency program. Residency programs involve close observation and hands-on training under the supervision of professional vascular surgeons.
After a vascular surgeon completes his residency, he must undergo a two-year fellowship program to receive advanced surgical training. At the end of a fellowship, candidates must pass a final examination from the American Board of Surgery to receive official certification as vascular surgeons.
Vascular surgeons perform a wide range of reconstructive and restorative operations including balloon angioplasty, which is the insertion of an inflatable balloon into an artery to remove plaque; stenting, the insertion of a device that will hold open clogged arteries; thrombolysis, the removal of blood clots; and artery repair or bypass, according to the Surgery Encyclopedia.
Vascular surgeons must have excellent hand-eye coordination, and steady hands. Working with arteries and veins is delicate work, and a false move could cause extensive damage. They must also be able to work well under pressure and to work quickly; the longer a surgery takes, the greater the risk to the patient. The success of vascular surgery depends, in large part, on the skill of the surgeon, according to the Surgery Encyclopedia. This is especially true for patients at high risk. Patients include smokers, chronic lung or kidney disease sufferers and diabetics.
Outlook and Salary
Surgeons are in the highest pay bracket in the United States, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In 2008, surgeons earned a median annual income of $339,738. The number of jobs in the field of specialty medicine (vascular surgery is a specialty) is expected to grow by 22 percent by 2018.
Many vascular surgeons work long, irregular hours. They often need to be available for emergencies. Vascular surgeons who are on-call must be with an hour’s driving time from the hospital, according to the Mayo Clinic.
2016 Salary Information for Physicians and Surgeons
Physicians and surgeons earned a median annual salary of $204,950 in 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. On the low end, physicians and surgeons earned a 25th percentile salary of $131,980, meaning 75 percent earned more than this amount. The 75th percentile salary is $261,170, meaning 25 percent earn more. In 2016, 713,800 people were employed in the U.S. as physicians and surgeons.