Artery bypass

November 12, 2012

Artery bypass

If you have been diagnosed with arterial disease – or atherosclerosis – then you may well need to have what is commonly referred to as ‘bypass surgery’. This should really be called ‘artery bypass’. This surgery is used to divert the blood supply your leg around a blockage in the artery. It may be done in one or more arteries -

  • Aorta – main heart artery.

  • Iliac – in the hip

  • Femoral – in the thigh.

  • Tibial and peroneal – lower leg

  • Axillary – armpit

  • Popliteal – behind the knee.

The type of anesthesia you have for this kind of surgery will depend on what exactly the surgeon plans to do and your options will be fully discussed with you. After undergoing anesthesia a cut will be made by the vascular surgeon over the area of the bypass, the artery will be clamped at either side of the blockage and the surgeon will then use a graft to either bypass or replace the blockage, this graft may be plastic tubing or from a blood vessel taken from your opposite leg during the surgical procedure. Once the artery bypass is completed the surgeon will ensure that the blood flow to the lower leg is as it should be, that the graft is working correctly and then close the wound.

Aortoiliac procedure

An aortoiliac procedure will treat your aorta and iliac arteries and an aortobifemoral will treat the aorta and both femoral arteries. These procedures will include an incision in the abomen in order that the aorta and iliac arteries can be properly accessed. In the case of femoral popliteal artery bypass the incision will be made close to the blockage between the groin and the knee.

Artery Bypass

Artery bypass is usually only carried out on patients for whom other treatments have failed or who have a severely disrupted quality of life as a result of the symptoms of arterial disease. Tests will also have been performed to gauge the severity of the blockage.

Surgical risks of artery bypass

As with all surgeries there are risks associated with artery bypass – including risks associated with anesthesia. Surgical risks include -

  • Blood clots

  • Breathing difficulties

  • Heart attack or stroke

  • Infection

There are some specific risks associated with artery bypass which include -

  • The bypass fails.

  • Nerve damage causing pain or numbness in the leg.

  • Organ damage – especially the bowel during aortic surgery.

  • Excessive bleeding.

  • Impotence

  • Re-opening of incision

  • Second bypass surgery or even amputation.

Prior to an artery bypass operation you will have undergone a number of tests as well as a physical examination. You may need to stop taking some of your usual medications – particularly those that cause the blood to thin such as ibuprofen, aspirin etc. If you are not sure about what to take and what to stop you must seek the advice of your doctor. It is imperative that you stop smoking if you have not already done so. Should you develop any minor infection, a cold or something similar you should also inform your doctor.

After surgery

After surgery you may need to spend some time in bed and maybe in hospital for up to seven days. It is important to keep your legs raised and to gradually increase your walking time – be sure to listen carefully to and follow exactly any instructions you are given by your medical practitioner.

The outlook is good for those that undergo artery bypass with most patients experiencing good results.

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