Naiem Nassiri, MD, is a Yale Medicine vascular surgeon. He treats problems that affect the peripheral vasculature, which includes all of the blood vessels in the body, except for those that involve the brain and the heart. His patients range from infants to the elderly, in whom vascular disease is most common.
Dr. Nassiri has a special interest in hemangiomas and vascular abnormalities, medical terms he says are often misused, making it difficult for patients to receive an accurate diagnosis. “Hemangioma has become the default term patients use to describe any sort of blood vessel abnormality,” he says. But, the traditional hemangioma, a classic strawberry birthmark, tends to regress starting around 12 months of age, he adds.
“What we see starting in the teen years or early twenties are more likely to be vascular malformations of various subtypes, and the diagnostic and therapeutic implications are vastly different,” Dr. Nassiri says. Some of these turn out to be congenital problems that may manifest later in life, when symptoms surface around some environmental trigger, medication, pregnancy or trauma. Dr. Nassiri has seen many patients who didn’t know they were living with a serious condition after a misdiagnosis. “When vascular malformations are not diagnosed correctly, these problems can be potentially devastating because of the nature of the organ system,” he says. He urges anyone who has any symptom they feel unsure about to visit an academic medical center.
Dr. Nassiri says he wanted to be a doctor from as far back as he can remember. “When I was growing up, kids would talk about superheroes, but for me the notion of a surgeon in a white coat was always what I really aspired to be.” He was drawn to vascular surgery by its complexity. “I have never looked back or thought about anything else,” he says.
In addition to his work with patients, Dr. Nassiri is an associate professor of surgery (vascular and endovascular) at Yale School of Medicine, focusing his research on the development of new devices and surgical techniques. He is chief of vascular and endovascular surgery at the Veteran Affairs (VA) Connecticut Healthcare System in West Haven.