Peripheral bypass surgery is a procedure that reroutes blood flow around a blockage in the arteries of the arms or legs. Atherosclerosis, or plaque buildup, can affect these arteries in a condition called peripheral artery disease or PAD. A thick, waxy substance composed of cholesterol and minerals builds up within the blood vessels, and in severe cases it can clog arteries. Without enough blood getting to the muscles, patients can experience weakness and pain. Peripheral bypass surgery opens up a new pathway for blood to flow where it is needed. Sometimes peripheral bypass surgery is used when arteries are damaged, for instance, by a severe injury. While it can be performed in the arms, it is most commonly done in the calf, knee, thigh, or hip.
During surgery, the blockage is identified, and an incision is made to expose the artery. The surgeon prepares a tube, called a graft, to be used as the bypass. Sometimes this tube is synthetic, and sometimes a piece of the patient’s own vein or artery is used. The ends of the bypass graft are attached to the artery above and below the blockage. Now blood can simply flow around and continue on its way.
After a peripheral bypass, you may need to spend a couple of days in the hospital while doctors make sure your bypass is working and not leaking. If the bypass was done in your leg, doctors may check the pulse in your feet to make sure blood is flowing well. You may experience some swelling in the area where you had surgery. Raising your arm or leg will help. You will likely be back to your normal activities within 2-3 weeks.