Bypass surgery is one option for restoring blood flow to your legs, or in some cases arms. If a lengthy portion of an artery becomes narrowed – or if a blood vessel is severely blocked, then your doctor may recommend bypass surgery. Blood flow is restored by rerouting the blood around the blockage in an effort to reduce leg pain and the risk of losing a leg or foot due to severe narrowing of the arteries.
In bypass surgery, the surgeon makes an incision near the blocked artery, and then attaches a new blood vessel (from another part of the body or a man-made vessel) above and below the blockage. By providing a channel for the blood to bypass the blockage, the new vessel (called a graft) allows blood to continue to flow to the leg and foot. Once the vessel is attached, the surgeon closes the incision with sutures or staples.
Bypass surgery is performed by a vascular surgeon -- a medical specialist trained in surgical procedures to treat conditions affecting the heart and blood vessels.
Immediately after surgery, you will be monitored to ensure that blood is flowing to your legs and that your vital signs are good. You will be given medicine to control pain. After a few days when you are able to walk on your own, you will be released from the hospital.
After you leave the hospital, it is very important to take all the medications your doctor has prescribed and follow all instructions for caring for your incision. It is also vital that you make all your follow-up visits to the doctor to ensure that blood is flowing properly to your legs.
Risks and Complications of Bypass Surgery
More than 95 percent of people who undergo bypass surgery do not experience serious complications. But, as with any surgery, risks do exist. They include --
- Death (occurs in 2 to 5 percent of cases)
- Heart attack (occurs in up to 3.4 percent of cases)
- Heavy bleeding and reactions to anesthesia, including difficulty breathing, symptoms that are common with other surgeries
- Blood clots
- Wound infection
- Need for additional surgery
The condition of your health at the time of bypass surgery can influence your risk and possible complications. Somewhat higher risk is associated with –
- Age: People over 70 years old
- Gender: Women are at slightly higher risk
- Previous heart surgery
- Other serious conditions, such as diabetes, peripheral vascular disease, kidney disease or lung disease