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Bypass Surgery for Lower Extremities

Vascular surgeons use bypass surgery for lower extremities to treat narrowed arteries. The bypass creates a detour around the part of the artery that is blocked. Arteries can become blocked through atherosclerosis — hardening of the arteries. Over time, plaque, made up of cholesterol, calcium and tissue, can build up in the walls of the arteries. As it builds up, arteries can narrow and stiffen as opposed to being free flowing and movable. Eventually, as this progresses, blood vessels can no longer supply much needed oxygen to the lower extremities.

How Bypass is Performed

During a bypass procedure, a vascular surgeon creates a new pathway for blood flow using a graft. A graft can be a portion of one of the veins or a synthetic tube that the surgeon connects above and below a blockage to allow blood to pass through it and around the blockage.

In order to gain access to the bypass site in a blocked artery, a vascular surgeon makes an incision in over the artery. Once the artery is visible, the surgeon checks the pulse in the healthy part of the artery. This is important to ensure the artery provides enough blood flow to supply the bypass. Next, the artery below the part that is blocked is opened. This is where the surgeon will connect one end of the graft using permanent stitches and routes it to the other end of the graft to the site above the blockage. Similarly, the surgeon opens the artery and stitches the graft onto this end of the artery. Alignment and leakage are checked. Tests may be ordered to make certain there are no issues. Once finished, incisions are closed.

What to Expect After Bypass Surgery

Patients may remain in the hospital for up to seven days and stitches are removed between one to two weeks. There are minimal risks with bypass surgery for lower extremities though rare complications may occur. To maintain good health after the bypass, you should eat healthy, maintain a good cholesterol level, exercise, stop smoking and maintain your ideal weight.