Physician Loves the Variety
The love Melissa Loja, M.D., has for medicine is not in vain — it’s in vein, quite literally. And arteries. And all the amazing technology she has at her disposal to make life better for her patients.
As part of the NorthBay Center for Heart and Vascular, she deals with any and all veins outside of the heart and brain. NorthBay Healthcare’s new vascular surgeon loves the variety of procedures and technical tools almost as much as she loves her patients. Almost.
“I got into vascular surgery because you can establish a life-long relationship with your patients. You not only see them right after surgery, but you continue to see them and continue to offer ways to make their lives better,” said Dr. Loja.
She’s excited that this fall she’ll be able to offer the most cutting edge treatment for carotid artery disease: TCAR. It stands for TransCarotid Artery Revascularization and it’s a way to prevent strokes from happening.
“I got into vascular surgery because you can establish a life-long relationship with your patients. You not only see them right after surgery, but you continue to see them and continue to offer ways to make their lives better.”
— Melissa Loja, M.D.
“The classic method of treatment involves a surgery. This new, minimally invasive technology is safer for high-risk patients compared to surgery, and their recovery will be much faster,” she said.
Although it’s difficult to predict a stroke, there are several factors that make an individual more vulnerable: a history of heart disease, hypertension, a history of smoking and TIAs (transient ischemic attacks), also known as mini-strokes. TIAs don’t cause permanent damage, but are often considered a precursor for a stroke.
In any of those situations a physician, including primary care doctors, can order an ultrasound or CT scan that could confirm if TCAR could be life-saving.
Until now, patients in need of TCAR had to travel to the Bay Area or Sacramento area for such treatment. “Patients can now get the highest quality vascular care right here in Solano County,” said Dr. Loja, “and the care they’ll get here following surgery will continue for the rest of their lives.”
Treatment of carotid arteries are only about 30 percent of what she does as a vascular surgeon. Many of her patients suffer from PAD, or Peripheral Artery Disease, which is a problem when arteries are narrowed and blood flow is reduced to the arms or legs. She’s also quite busy with vein ablations, repairing aneurysms and creating and maintaining access for dialysis.
Despite the pandemic, Dr. Loja has been able to build up a robust practice.
“There’s real need here, and it’s keeping me busy. Sometimes it’s a simple procedure, sometimes it’s very complex and technical,” she said. “I love the variety, and I love being able to help my patients have a better quality of life.”