This experienced vascular surgeon uses leading-edge technology to treat patients.
When Dr. Claudie Sheahan was around seven years old, she watched an open-heart surgery on TV. From that moment, she knew she wanted to specialize in vascular surgery — a specialty in which surgeons treat disease and dysfunction in patients’ arteries, veins and lymphatic systems. “I realized at that point that it was the most interesting job I could ever have,” she says. “I never really strayed from that.”
After graduating from high school in New York, Dr. Sheahan enrolled in an accelerated program at Boston University, where she earned both her bachelor’s degree and medical degree in just seven years. She completed her residency in general surgery at Mount Sinai Medical Center, following it up with post-doctoral fellowships in surgical and vascular research in New York, and in Boston at Harvard Medical School. Finally, Dr. Sheahan returned to Mount Sinai to complete her clinical fellowship in vascular surgery.
She joined Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center in 2004. Here, she divides her time between performing procedures, teaching and doing research. Some conditions she treats in surgery include vein malformation and blood clots, while outpatient procedures include treatment for varicose veins; spider veins; and ulcers in the legs.
In addition to developing her surgical skills, Dr. Sheahan’s training prepared her for the research-intensive portion of her career. “Vascular surgery is the most interesting field in terms of technology that changes day-to-day,” she says. “The number of options that you can offer a patient have increased significantly with this technology.” In the past, a patient who needed vascular surgery would have been treated with a standard open-surgical approach. “Now, with the endovascular and open surgery options, you put 10 different vascular surgeons together, and you’re going to get 10 different opinions,” Dr. Sheahan says.
For this reason, she’s grateful to be part of the lively academic atmosphere at LSU. “You’re constantly in discussion with your colleagues,” she says. “It’s a very stimulating environment.”
Dr. Sheahan often works with patients suffering from varicose veins. “When you have varicose veins, it’s because your veins are not working properly,” she explains. As blood backs up, the legs begin to ache. “Over years of that, the skin will become so thickened and inflamed, it will actually break down,” she adds. “It’s a painful, chronic condition. It’s under-appreciated and extremely common.”
Sclerotherapy, or laser treatment, for spider veins and varicose veins is one example of vascular surgery’s constant evolution. “This is a laser that’s inserted, under ultrasound, into the vein,” Dr. Sheahan says. “After the vein is numbed, you’re able to laser it.” At its inception, laser vein treatment was an in-patient procedure — but, since the late 2000s, it has become an outpatient treatment. Dr. Sheahan calls the outpatient procedure “a huge advance,” noting that it cuts down on patient stress and time commitment. “Patients don’t have to be admitted to the hospital; they’re in and out in an hour or two, maximum,” she says. “It’s one of the most rewarding things I do.”
Dr. Sheahan foresees remaining with LSU for the long term, both because of her love for New Orleans and her commitment to teaching future vascular surgeons. “LSU has been very, very supportive of education,” she says. “We’re so involved in education. I couldn’t imagine going to a place where I wasn’t that involved.”
DOCTOR PHILOSOPHY: “This is a field where you’re taking care of the patient surgically, and they become your patient for life. You’re very much responsible for them medically, as well as surgically. You take care of these patients.”
Claudie Sheahan, M.D.
Associate Professor of Clinical Surgery
Associate Program Director
Division of Vascular and Endovascular Surgery
LSU Healthcare Network
3700 St Charles Ave., 3rd Floor
MEDICAL SCHOOL: Boston University Medical School
RESIDENCY: Mount Sinai Medical Center, General Surgery
FELLOWSHIPS: Mount Sinai Medical Center, Dr. Percy Klingenstein Surgical Research Fellow; Harvard Medical Center, Vascular Surgery Research Fellow; Mount Sinai Medical Center, Vascular Surgery Clinical Fellow
BOARD CERTIFICATIONS: Vascular Surgery