You had peripheral artery bypass surgery to re-route the blood supply around a blocked artery in one of your legs.
Your surgeon made an incision (cut) over the area where the artery was blocked. This may have been in your leg or groin, or the lower part of your belly. Clamps were placed over the artery at each end of the blocked section. A special tube called a graft was sewn into the artery to replace the blocked part.
You may have stayed in the intensive care unit (ICU) for 1 to 3 days after surgery. After that, you stayed in a regular hospital room.
What to Expect at Home
Your incision may be sore for several days. You should be able to walk farther now without needing to rest. Full recovery from surgery may take 6 to 8 weeks.
Walk short distances 3 to 4 times a day. Slowly increase how far you walk each time.
When you are resting, keep your leg raised above the level of your heart to prevent leg swelling:
- Lie down and place a pillow under the lower part of your leg.
- Do not sit for more than 1 hour at a time when you first come home. If you can, raise your feet and legs when you are sitting. Rest them on another chair or a stool.
You will have more leg swelling after walking or sitting. If you have a lot of swelling, you may be doing too much walking or sitting, or eating too much salt in your diet.
When you climb stairs, use your good leg first when you go up. Use your leg that had surgery first when you go down. Rest after taking several steps.
Your doctor will tell you when you can drive. You may take short trips as a passenger, but try to sit in the backseat with your leg that had surgery raised up on the seat.
If your staples have been removed, you will probably have Steri-Strips (small pieces of tape) across your incision. Wear loose clothing that does not rub against your incision.
You may shower or get the incision wet, once your doctor says you can. Do not soak, scrub, or have the shower beat directly on them. If you have Steri-Strips, they will curl up and fall off on their own after a week.
Do not soak in the bath tub, a hot tub, or swimming pool. Ask your doctor or nurse when it you can start doing these activities again.
Your doctor will tell you how often to change your dressing (bandage) and when you may stop using one. Keep your wound dry. If your incision goes to your groin, keep a dry gauze pad over it to keep it dry.
- Clean your incision with soap and water every day once your doctor says you can. Look carefully for any changes. Gently pat it dry.
- Do not put any lotion, cream, or herbal remedy on your wound without asking your doctor first if that is okay.
Bypass surgery does not cure the cause of the blockage in your arteries. Your arteries may become narrow again.
- Eat a heart-healthy diet, exercise, stop smoking (if you smoke), and reduce your stress. Doing these things will help lower your chances of having a blocked artery again.
- Your health care provider may give you medicine to help lower your cholesterol.
- If you are taking medicines for high blood pressure or diabetes, take them as your doctor has asked you to.
- Your doctor may ask you to take aspirin or a medicine called clopidogrel (Plavix) when you go home. These medicines keep your blood from forming clots in your arteries. Do NOT stop taking them without talking with your doctor first.
When to Call the Doctor
Call your doctor or nurse if:
- Your leg that had surgery changes color or becomes cool to touch, pale, or numb.
- You have chest pain, dizziness, problems thinking clearly, or shortness of breath that does not go away when you rest.
- You are coughing up blood or yellow or green mucus.
- You have chills.
- You have a fever over 101 °F.
- Your belly hurts or is bloated.
- There are changes in your surgical incision:
- The edges are pulling apart.
- Green or yellow drainage is coming from it.
- It is redder, painful, warm, or swelling.
- The bandage is soaked with blood.
- Your legs are swelling.
Aortobifemoral bypass - discharge; Femoropopliteal - discharge; Femoral popliteal - discharge; Aorta-bifemoral bypass - discharge; Axillo-bifemoral bypass - discharge; Ilio-bifemoral bypass - discharge
Creager MA and Libby P. Peripheral arterial disease. In: Libby P, Bonow RO, Mann DL, Zipes DP, eds.Libby: Braunwald's Heart Disease: A Textbook of Cardiovascular Medicine
Eisenhauer AC, White CJ. Endovascular treatment of noncoronary obstructive vascular disease. In: Libby P, Bonow RO, Mann DL, Zipes DP, eds.Braunwald's Heart Disease: A Textbook of Cardiovascular Medicine
Update Date 1/11/2013
Updated by: Michael A. Chen, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor of Medicine, Division of Cardiology, Harborview Medical Center, University of Washington Medical School, Seattle, Washington Also reviewed by A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc., Editorial Team: David Zieve, MD, MHA, David R. Eltz, Stephanie Slon, and Nissi Wang.