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Vascular Care

When faced with a vascular disease, you can trust your care to our highly trained physicians at UNC REX Healthcare. We offer comprehensive heart and vascular treatment at convenient locations throughout Wake County as well as central and eastern North Carolina via North Carolina Heart & Vascular and REX Vascular Specialists.

What is Vascular Disease?

Vascular diseases include any condition that affects your circulatory system, including diseases of the heart, blood vessels, lymph vessels and blood disorders.

Vascular Conditions We Treat

We are experts in treating a variety of vascular conditions including stroke, deep vein thrombosis, and more.

Deep Vein Thrombosis

Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) occurs when a blood clot, or thrombus, develops in the large veins of the legs or pelvic area. It affects about two million Americans each year

The majority of DVTs are not life threatening, however if the clot breaks free the condition could be fatal. When a clot (called an embolus) breaks free and lodges in a lung artery, the condition is called a pulmonary embolism (PE).


DVT is typically caused by a combination of two or three underlying conditions: slow or sluggish blood flow thorough a deep vein, a tendency for a person’s blood to clot quickly, or irritation or inflammation of the inner lining of the vein.

Risk Factors

DVT affects both men and women of all ethnic groups. It can occur at any age, but is most common in adults over the age of 40. DVT risk factors include:

  • Recent major surgery especially hip and knee orthopedic surgeries or those requiring prolonged bed rest
  • Cancer and its treatment
  • Activity that restricts walking and movement such as prolonged air or car travel
  • Major trauma or injuries to the leg
  • Previous DVT or PE
  • Hospitalization with an acute medical illness such as heart attack or stroke
  • Pregnancy, especially during the late stages or around the time of delivery
  • Use of birth control pills, hormone replacement therapy or estrogen treatment
  • Family history of DVT or PE
  • Obesity and lack of exercise
  • Smoking
  • Varicose veins
  • Chronic respiratory failure
  • Congestive heart failure


Approximately half of those with DVT never have recognized the symptoms. When symptoms are present, the most common is leg pain and tenderness in the calf muscles, or swelling or a change in color of one leg to purple or blue.

The symptoms of a PE include chest pain, shortness of breath, rapid pulse or a cough. There may also be a feeling of apprehension, sweating or fainting. While these may also be symptoms of other conditions, such as a heart attack or pneumonia, they are considered critical and demand immediate medical attention.

Peripheral Vascular Disease

Peripheral Vascular Disease (PVD) is a disease of the blood vessels outside the heart and brain resulting circulation disorders due to the narrow nature of the blood vessels that carry blood to the legs, arms, stomach and kidneys.

There are two types of PVD:

  • Functional - Do not involve defects in the blood vessels’ structure and usually come and go with short-term effects. May also be triggered by cold temperatures, emotional stress or smoking.
  • Organic - Caused by structural changes in the blood vessels, such as inflammation and tissue damage.

Peripheral Artery Disease

Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD) occurs when fatty deposits build up in the inner linings of artery walls (similar to coronary artery disease and carotid artery disease). This can create a blockage and restrict blood circulation to the kidneys, stomach, arms, legs and feet.

Risk Factors

PVD risk factors include:

  • Smoking
  • Obesity
  • Diabetes
  • Physical inactivity
  • High blood pressure
  • High blood cholesterol
  • Family history of PAD, cardiovascular disease or stroke

Are you at risk? Take a quick online quiz to find out!


As many as 8 to 12 million Americans have PAD, but nearly 75 percent don’t have symptoms. Men are more likely to experience symptoms of PAD than women. The most common symptoms include cramping and pain or tiredness in the leg or hip muscles when walking or climbing stairs.

Diagnosis and Treatment

PAD can be diagnosed through:

  • Review of your medical history
  • Physical Exam
  • Ultrasound
  • X-ray
  • Angiography
  •  Magnetic Resonance Imaging Angiography (MRA)

Most cases can be managed through healthy lifestyle changes and medication.

Peripheral Venous Disorders

Peripheral Venous Disorders occur when the peripheral veins which carry blood away from the hands and feet are damaged or defective. This results in disorders such as thrombophlebitis, varicose veins and chronic venous insufficiency.

Diagnostic Services

Our IAC accredited non-invasive Peripheral Vascular Lab (PVL) specializes in a number of diagnostic services.

Using a combination of ultrasound and color blood flow (Doppler) tests we can evaluate your complete vascular system. We also offer two non-invasive exams which involve no contrast and are essentially pain-free:

  • Venous Testing - The Venus Doppler, which utilizes sound waves, to examine the structures inside the body and evaluate blood flow. This test determines if there are problems with the veins.
  • Arterial Testing - The Arterial Doppler is a blood pressure test for arteries in the legs to see if there is a lack of blood flow. If so, there could be a blockage in the arteries caused by a build-up of plaque or cholesterol.

The PVL is most commonly used to evaluate carotid artery disease, aneurysms, thrombophlebitis, kidney blood flow (renal artery), intestinal blood flow (mesenteric), liver flow and intracranial studies (arterial blood flow inside of the brain). The lab also offers a complete evaluation for claudication (a pain in the legs or hips that occurs when walking and is relieved by rest).

Call 911

If you or a loved one is experiencing signs of a heart attack or stroke, call 911 immediately.

Are you at risk for Heart & Vascular Disease?

Take our Heart Aware assessment.

Find out now

Patient Stories


Joy recalls how the nurses and physicians at UNC REX Healthcare saved her life when she woke up with heart pain in the middle of the night.

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