Leg vascular bypass surgery, also called peripheral artery bypass surgery, is performed in people with peripheral artery disease (PAD) in their legs. It reroutes blood flow from a damaged or diseased artery by inserting an artificial graft or a vein from the other leg.
This is an inpatient (in-hospital) procedure. Most patients can go home within a few days to a week.
Impacts For Vascular Surgery Legs Recovery Time
Vascular bypass is performed on different parts of the leg, which in turn determines the length of the time surgery will take and the type of anesthesia used. The arteries targeted for bypass are in the hip, thigh, behind the knee, and the lower leg.
Most patients with PAD in the legs have already had at least one angioplasty, usually with stents or balloons, to try to open blocked veins and arteries. A bypass is usually required when the vein or artery can no longer remain open even with stents.
Recovery time for vascular surgery in the leg depends on factors that include overall patient health and the kind of anesthesia used. Some patients cannot tolerate certain kinds of general anesthesia, which reduces the choices available to the surgical team.
Surgeons can opt to use epidural or spinal anesthesia in bypass surgery in the lower leg. An anesthesiologist injects medicine into the spine to numb the patient from the waist down. It also allows for a faster recovery time than general anesthesia, in which the patient is fully unconscious.
What to Expect After Vascular Bypass Surgery in the Leg
There is no “typical” PAD patient, so it’s difficult to predict vascular bypass surgery leg recovery time. This is what I consider a normal recovery period.
- One to three days in the hospital intensive care unit (ICU) before transfer to a regular hospital room. Many patients don’t even need time in the ICU and go straight from the recovery room to a regular hospital room.
- Hospital stay for up to one week. Most patients go home much sooner.
- A complete recovery after eight weeks.
Since this is leg surgery, it’s important to walk as soon as the effects of anesthesia have worn off. Walking helps ensure proper blood flow and reduces swelling, which helps the incision heal.
Obviously, complications can cause a longer recovery time. The most common cause is longer healing times for patients who had longer incisions. Usually, this is treatable with proper wound draining and care at home and taking antibiotics. A small number may bleed excessively, which can require additional procedures and delay release from the hospital.
Full recovery can take six to eight weeks. During this time, patients are instructed on how often to walk each day and for how long.
- Patients should not sit for more than one hour the day they come home. After one hour, they must get up and move around.
- During recovery, patients should keep their legs propped up on a stool or another chair and above heart level to prevent swelling in the leg.
- Legs should be propped up on a pillow when lying down.
- Patients allowed to start climbing stairs should begin with the “good” leg that didn’t have the surgery.
- Patients should not drive until they have been cleared by their physician. When riding in a car, passengers should recline in the back seat and keep their legs elevated.
- Stitches are usually removed a few weeks after surgery in the physician’s office.
Most patients can expect a complete recovery by eight weeks. Patients should be monitored for about two years following leg bypass surgery to make sure there are no new blockages.