Medical terms can be confusing for the lay person, as can the specializations of medical professionals. The reason for this specialization is that every part of the body works in a unique way and is affected by different things. Vascular diseases and surgery have to do with the way blood is pumped around the body; cardiovascular surgery is a lot more specific.
Cardiovascular refers specifically to the central organ of the body, the heart and its major vessels for transporting the blood. The vessels include the pulmonary arteries and veins taking blood into and out of the heart. Although all veins and arteries are blood vessels, cardiovascular refers to the main ones going into and out of the heart. The heart is arguably the most important organ in the body as without its pumping blood would not reach the extremities of the body. This is vital as the blood transports oxygen and anti-bacterial white blood cells.
Cardiovascular surgery is any operation carried out on the heart and these major vessels carrying the blood. This is a very specialized area of surgery due to the obvious dangers with operating near such an important organ. Any mistakes made with a scalpel near the heart are difficult to fix and can be fatal. This type of surgery include operations such as heart transplants, heart bypasses and open heart surgery. It is only relatively recently that cardiovascular surgery has become common due to developments in medical technology that allowed the heart to be replaced, bypassed and operated on without stopping it beating.
Vascular refers to the veins and arteries that transport the blood around the body. There are thousands of these in the body delivering blood pumped from the heart and transporting blood back to the lungs to be re-oxygenated. Even if the heart is working fine, if the veins and arteries are blocked the body will suffer.
Any surgery carried out on veins and arteries away from the heart is referred to as vascular surgery. Many of these are much closer to the surface and are less invasive than cardiovascular operations. Vascular surgeons can carry out any number of operations such as the removal of blood clots and bypasses of major veins and arteries that have become blocked. Vascular surgery is normally part of the same department as cardiovascular due to the similar nature of the operations carried out.