A peripheral artery bypass surgery creates another way for your blood to get around a blocked artery in your leg. People with peripheral artery disease can get poor blood flow in their legs because of fat deposits that get in the way. It takes several weeks to recover from this operation, but many people have better blood flow for several years.
A peripheral artery bypass is an operation to get your blood flowing again when a leg (or arm) artery has become narrow or blocked. This can happen when you have peripheral artery disease (PAD). Plaque made up of cholesterol and other fats can form an obstacle inside your artery. This makes it difficult for your blood to travel through it to deliver oxygen and nutrients to your tissues.
Your healthcare provider creates another route for your blood, allowing it to avoid the blockage. This is similar to building a highway that goes around a congested area. Your blood is like a car that can use the new highway instead of trying to get through a roadway jammed with cars.
People who have a bad blockage in a long, narrow section of a leg (or arm) artery may need peripheral artery bypass surgery. Your provider will consider surgery if other peripheral artery disease (PAD) treatments don’t work for you.
You may need this operation if you have:
How serious is leg bypass surgery?
Leg bypass surgery is the most involved and invasive treatment for peripheral artery disease. People who get a peripheral artery bypass have already tried medicines or lifestyle changes. If you’re having a peripheral artery bypass surgery, you probably have advanced peripheral artery disease.
A peripheral artery bypass surgery treats inadequate blood flow. Blood provides nutrients and oxygen to your body. If there’s no blood flow, there’s no fuel to the muscles and tissue in your body. People with peripheral artery disease (PAD) have this problem. When a person with PAD has a long section of blockage in a blood vessel, they may need a peripheral artery bypass.
Peripheral artery bypass surgery is fairly common. About half of people who can’t get enough blood flow to their legs have surgery to improve it. Peripheral artery bypass surgery is one of the ways to get blood flowing again in your legs.
About 6.5 million Americans have peripheral artery disease, but many of them have treatments other than peripheral artery bypass.
Your bypass may last a shorter or longer time than someone else’s based on:
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Your vascular surgeon may want you to get tests, such as:
If you know you’re having a peripheral artery bypass, it’s important to stop using tobacco products before then. This can give you a smaller chance of complications after surgery.
The day before your operation, you may need to:
Your vascular surgeon will:
Peripheral artery bypass surgery time can be less than two hours to as long as six hours.
Your healthcare provider will:
Your provider may prescribe medicine for you after surgery, such as:
A peripheral artery bypass can get blood flowing to your leg when other treatments haven’t helped. Also, the results from this operation may last longer than results from a minimally invasive intervention such as a balloon angioplasty or stent. Five years after surgery, 60% to 85% of bypasses remain open, which means the blood is getting through.
Complications of a peripheral artery bypass surgery include:
Most people don’t have major complications from a peripheral artery bypass. However, it can be fatal in 2% to 5% of people.
You may be at a higher risk of complications if you’re older than 70 and/or have other health issues.
Sometimes, people need to have surgery again because of a blockage in their peripheral artery bypass graft. This can happen in a short amount of time or after a number of years. Often, providers can treat this with a minimally invasive, or endovascular, procedure.
It may take six to eight weeks to recover from a peripheral artery bypass. However, you should be able to return to work in a few weeks. You can go back to eating gradually.
You should be able to go home from the hospital two to five days after surgery. After your surgery, you may have:
Contact your provider if you have these problems after you go home:
You’ll have regular follow-up appointments with your provider after your surgery. Be sure to go to all of your appointments so your provider can make sure you have good blood flow in your legs. They’ll use ultrasound to check this.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Peripheral artery bypass surgery can help you get blood flow back in your leg when other treatments haven’t worked. Avoiding the use of tobacco products before surgery can help you have a lower chance of surgical complications. It’s important to take any medicines your provider prescribed and take care of your incisions. Also, don’t miss any follow-up appointments with your provider.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 11/17/2022.
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