How Vascular Surgery Can Be Used To Treat Gangrene

Gangrene is a painful condition caused by poor blood supply, which causes the body's tissue to die.  Gangrene generally begins in the extremities, hands, and feet. If you are diagnosed with gangrene, your GP may refer you to a vascular surgeon for treatment.  But what causes gangrene, how can vascular surgery help and what can you do to prevent a recurrence?

Causes and symptoms

Gangrene particularly affects people with medical conditions that affect the blood vessels and circulation including:

If you develop any of the following symptoms, you may be suffering from gangrene.

  • swelling and reddening of the toes, fingers, hands or feet
  • severe pain or a total loss of any sensation in the affected areas
  • blisters or ulcers that bleed or seep with pus

As the blood vessels begin to narrow, the flow of blood is compromised, and the tissue in the affected areas dies, as it is deprived of oxygen and nutrients.  In extreme cases, there is no option but to amputate the affected digit or limb.

If you suspect that you may have gangrene, see your GP immediately.  If left untreated, in addition to the risk of amputation, gangrene can lead to sepsis, which may be fatal.

Treating gangrene with vascular surgery

One of the most effective treatments of gangrene is vascular surgery to restore blood flow to the affected areas. This can be achieved through a number of techniques:


In this procedure, the vascular surgeon inserts a small balloon into an artery that has been blocked or narrowed. The balloon is then inflated, effectively stretching out the blood vessel to open it up and restore the flow of blood. 

Another angioplasty technique involves implanting a tiny metal tube (a stent) into the artery. The stent holds the artery open and the blood flows through it to the affected area.

Bypass surgery

When bypass surgery is carried out, the vascular surgeon grafts part of a vein to part of an artery that is still healthy  This redirects the blood flow past the blockage or narrowed area and restores the flow.

Both these options are extremely effective in the treatment of gangrene. Of the two, angioplasty has a quicker recovery time; although, bypass surgery is generally more effective in the longer term.


If you have a medical condition that puts you at risk of developing gangrene, there are a number of preventative measures that you can take to help reduce your risk.

  • take good care of your feet and have them checked by your GP at least annually
  • check your feet every day for numbness, skin lesions, swelling, discolouration or swelling
  • don't go outside barefoot
  • use a qualified podiatrist for issues, such as corns or ingrowing toenails
  • keep your feet clean and dry them thoroughly after washing
  • don't wear shoes that pinch or rub; this can cause ulcers and corns
  • don't smoke or consume excess amounts of alcohol

In conclusion

If you are diagnosed with gangrene, your GP may refer you to a vascular surgeon for treatment.  You can lower your risk of contracting this condition by following the helpful tips given above.  Always consult your doctor if you think you may be developing gangrene.