Peripheral arterial disease, often called PAD, occurs when the arteries in your legs are narrowed or blocked. PAD can’t be cured, but treatment and a healthy lifestyle can prevent the disease from getting worse.
For a severely narrowed artery or a short blockage, endovascular procedures may be used. These can be done through small punctures rather than full incisions.
As a result, recovery is often quicker, and complications tend to be fewer. Endovascular procedures include angioplasty and stenting. Both use catheters (thin tubes) to reach blockages in your arteries.
Angioplasty and stenting may not always improve blood flow enough. Open surgery, with an abdominal bypass or a leg bypass, may be the only option for longer or more severe blockages.
This treatment uses a bypass graft to reroute blood around a blocked artery in the abdomen or leg. The graft may be a synthetic tube or a vein from your leg. The damaged section of artery is not removed during this procedure.
To reach the blockage in the abdominal aorta, the surgeon makes incisions in the abdomen and groin. A synthetic graft is then sewn into the artery above and below the blocked section. Once blood flows freely through the graft, the incision is closed with sutures or staples.
To bypass a blocked leg artery, a healthy vein from that same leg is often used for the graft. The vein may be removed through one long incision or several smaller ones. In some cases, a synthetic graft is used.
Once the graft is ready, the surgeon makes an incision near the damaged artery. The graft is sutured to the artery above and below the blockage. Once blood is flowing through the graft, the incision is closed with sutures or staples.
Recovering After PAD Surgery
After PAD surgery, you will be monitored closely. You will receive medication to help control pain. You will be able to go home when you can walk on your own—often within a few days.
No matter what procedure you have, these measures once you’re at home can help your body heal more quickly:
- Taking aspirin, blood thinners, and pain medications as directed
- Caring for incisions as instructed
- Showering or taking sponge baths
- Drinking lots of fluids
- Trying to walk a little farther each day
Call your doctor right away if you have:
- A change in temperature or skin color below the bypass site
- A return of symptoms similar to those you had before the bypass
- Chest pain or trouble breathing
Be sure to keep all of your follow-up appointments. During these visits, your doctor will check your blood flow to make sure the graft is working properly. If problems are found, they can be treated right away.
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