Description of the Procedure
The doctor will make a cut in the skin on the leg. Through this cut, the doctor will take out a vein that will be used to make the bypass. If the vein cannot be used, then an artificial vein is used.
Next, an incision will be made in the groin to expose the femoral artery. This is the artery in the thigh. The doctor will make another incision at the back of the knee to expose another artery. This is called the popliteal artery.
The doctor will use clamps to block the flow of blood through these two arteries. One end of the new bypass vein will be stitched into the femoral artery, and the other end will be stitched into the popliteal artery. Once attached, blood will be passed through the graft to check for leaks. If leaks are found, the doctor will repair them. The clamps will then be removed. This will allow blood to flow through the graft to the lower leg. The doctor will use stitches to close the incisions.
In some cases, a vein in the thigh will be used as a graft while left in place. This is called in situ. In this procedure, the valves inside the vein will be removed with a small scope and a small cutting tool. The vein will then be attached to the arteries to form a graft.
How Much Will It Hurt?
As you heal and the swelling in your leg subsides, you may have pain for weeks or even months. Pain can be managed with medications. Keep in mind that it is normal for your leg to remain swollen for 2-3 months.
At the Hospital
While you are recovering at the hospital, you may be instructed to:
- Use ice packs to decrease pain and swelling. A nurse will apply a cold pack to the area for 15-20 minutes each time.
- Wear boots or special socks to help prevent blood clots.
- Use an incentive spirometer, to breathe deeply, and to cough frequently. This will improve lung function.
- Watch the wound for signs of infection.
During your stay, the hospital staff will take steps to reduce your chance of infection such as:
- Washing their hands
- Wearing gloves or masks
- Keeping your incisions covered
There are also steps you can take to reduce your chances of infection such as:
- Washing your hands often and reminding visitors and healthcare providers to do the same
- Reminding your healthcare providers to wear gloves or masks
- Not allowing others to touch your incisions
It may take up to 4-6 weeks (or sometimes longer) to feel pain free. If advised by your doctor, walk every day to make your legs stronger. You may be referred to a physical therapist to help with exercises. At home, you will need to take care of the wound to prevent infection. Your doctor may advise lifestyle changes, such as quitting smoking and a healthy diet.