Dr. Peter J. Hunt specializes in treating your arteries and veins outside the brain and heart
Dr. Peter Hunt, MD, RPVI
Specialty: Vascular Surgery
SJ/C Physician Network – Vascular Surgery
11909 McAuley Drive, Plaza C, #100-A2
Savannah, Ga. 31419
Undergrad: University of Massachusetts
Doctor of Medicine: Tufts University School of Medicine
General surgery internship: Rush University Medical Center
Residency in general surgery: Stamford Hospital
Fellowship in vascular surgery: Rush University Medical Center
SJ/C: Why did you become a doctor?
I was in a car accident in 1996 and needed trauma surgery. I was 17 at the time. I had a ruptured spleen, liver injuries and a collapsed lung. I thought the surgery was pretty cool because it saved my life. It was a moment of enlightenment for me. My plan was to do trauma surgery from 1996 until 2004, but then while in residency for general surgery, vascular surgery in particular appealed to me more than trauma. It was my “Aha!” moment.
SJ/C: So what really flipped the switch from trauma to vascular surgery for you?
I was in residency at that point. The types of surgeries you do in vascular and how the disease process works and the physiology of it made a lot more sense to me. For lack of a better phase, it’s plumbing, and plumbing just makes sense to me. It’s also a high risk and a high reward specialty, and I gravitated toward that. For me, it’s fun. Not everyone would agree, and it’s not fun every day, but the big thing is you can make an immediate difference in someone’s life. We can do a bypass for somebody who has chronic pain in their foot because they have poor blood flow to their foot for a long time, and the next day they feel better. It’s a high risk too because we operate on the blood vessels that other surgeons avoid.
SJ/C: How would you describe this specialty and vascular surgery?
It’s treating arteries and veins outside of the brain and heart. Outside of those two organs, we pretty much cover everything. That’s the other fun part of it. It’s not just surgery in one part of the body. For us, we’ll do extremity surgery, neck surgery or abdominal surgery. It’s also surgery where other surgeons might say, ‘Don’t touch the artery.’ Whereas, we’re like, ‘We’re going to clamp it and open it and fix it.’
SJ/C: What are some common procedures you do?
We do things like artery and vein stenting and angioplasty to treat blockages; that’s done from inside the artery. Sometimes we do open surgery through an incision and fix the blood flow directly by cleaning out plaque or do a bypass surgery around a blockage. The nice thing with vascular is basically we are your one-stop-shop for anything arterial or venous.
Vascular surgeons also treat the subsequent problems that go along with poor blood flow like wounds. Wounds may not heal because they can’t get good blood flow, so we deal with the wound; we deal with the blood flow; and then we go back and make sure the wound is healing. So instead of having to a call an orthopedic surgeon or wound care specialist for the wound on the foot and then a vascular surgeon for the blood flow, you can just call one person. It’s nice in that respect because we can take care of the whole situation and not just one segment of it.
SJ/C: How do you use technology as a vascular surgeon and how has that changed since you first started this specialty?
A lot of technology focus for us has been going toward what we call endovascular treatment. One example is abdominal aortic aneurysm, the traditional way to treat that would be an open aneurysm surgery. You make a big incision in the belly, open the aorta and sew in a fabric tube which is going to be the new aorta. I’d say 90 percent of those have been replaced with stent grafts. Now, we puncture the groin artery with a needle, put in a large IV then go up inside the aorta with wires and put in a stent that has fabric on the outside that mimics what we would do open without having to do the big open surgery. The recovery is a lot better. The long-term data is comparable. It’s a good way to go, and it’s only getting better.
SJ/C: Where do you see the future of this specialty going?
The future is endovascular, inside vessel treatments. I think there will be a point where no one even does open surgery. It’s going to get to a point where you are going to have to go to specialty places to get open surgery because people just aren’t going to do it. It’s just a matter of time to get to that point.
SJ/C: What is some general advice you commonly find yourself giving to patients to take care of their vascular health?
For overall health, I don’t recommend smoking. With our arterial patients, almost all of them smoke or used to smoke. It can lead to cardiovascular disease, lung disease, cancer, peripheral artery disease and aneurysms. Smoking causes inflammation. Plaque buildup in the arteries is an inflammatory process and smoking greatly accelerates that. More so than even diabetes or high cholesterol. If you are someone who doesn’t have diabetes but smokes a lot, you are going to have more problems than someone just with diabetes.
I think diet is a big health factor because you have to eat every day. What you choose to eat makes a big difference. I recommend people eat what I call “real food.” If it comes from a box, I don’t recommend it because of additives. Stay in the produce section. Stay in the meat section. Stay on the outside of the grocery store when buying food as much as you can. When you go to restaurants, fast food and places that prepare your food, again there are additives. It’s not to say restaurants are bad, but it’s important to know what is going into your food. It’s not bad to go to a restaurant every once in a while, but by keeping your food as natural as you can, it is much easier to control what’s going in your body. The simplest message I give to people, do what momma used to tell you and eat your vegetables. Fresh things and natural ingredients are a great way to go.
Family: Wife, daughter (10) and son (7)
Hobbies/Interests: Hand-tool wood working, DYI projects, fishing, putting things on his Jeep his wife thinks are silly and going to the beach with the family