You had a femoral endarterectomy (say "FEM-uh-rull en-dar-tuh-REK-tuh-mee"). It was done to remove fatty buildup (plaque) from the femoral artery.
You will have some pain from the cut (incision) the doctor made. This usually gets better after a couple of days. Your leg may be swollen at first. This may last 2 to 3 months.
You will have stitches or staples in the incision. If you have stitches, they may dissolve on their own. Or your doctor may take them out 7 to 14 days after your surgery.
After surgery, blood may flow better throughout your leg, which can decrease leg pain, numbness, and cramping. You may be able to walk longer distances without leg pain.
You will likely have regular checkups with your doctor to check your arteries.
This care sheet gives you a general idea about how long it will take for you to recover. But each person recovers at a different pace. Follow the steps below to get better as quickly as possible.
How can you care for yourself at home?
- Rest when you feel tired. Getting enough sleep will help you recover.
- Try to walk every day or as often as your doctor tells you. Start by walking a little more than you did the day before. Bit by bit, increase the amount you walk. Walking boosts blood flow and helps prevent pneumonia and constipation.
- Avoid strenuous activities, such as bicycle riding, jogging, weight lifting, or aerobic exercise, until your doctor says it is okay.
- Ask your doctor when you can drive again.
- You will probably need to take off 1 to 4 weeks from work. It depends on the type of work you do and how you feel.
- You may shower as usual. Do not take a bath for the first 2 weeks, or until your doctor tells you it is okay.
- You can eat your normal diet. If your stomach is upset, try bland, low-fat foods like plain rice, broiled chicken, toast, and yogurt.
- Drink plenty of fluids (unless your doctor tells you not to).
- You may notice that your bowel movements are not regular right after your surgery. This is common. You may want to take a fiber supplement every day. If you have not had a bowel movement after a couple of days, ask your doctor about taking a mild laxative.
- Your doctor will tell you if and when you can restart your medicines. He or she will also give you instructions about taking any new medicines.
- If you stopped taking aspirin or some other blood thinner, your doctor will tell you when to start taking it again.
- Be safe with medicines. Take your medicines exactly as prescribed. Call your doctor if you think you are having a problem with your medicine.
- Take pain medicines exactly as directed.
- If the doctor gave you a prescription medicine for pain, take it as prescribed.
- If you are not taking a prescription pain medicine, ask your doctor if you can take an over-the-counter medicine.
- If you think your pain medicine is making you sick to your stomach:
- Take your medicine after meals (unless your doctor has told you not to).
- Ask your doctor for a different pain medicine.
- If your doctor prescribed antibiotics, take them as directed. Do not stop taking them just because you feel better. You need to take the full course of antibiotics.
- Your doctor may prescribe a blood thinner when you go home. This helps prevent blood clots. Be sure you get instructions about how to take your medicine safely. Blood thinners can cause serious bleeding problems.
- If you have strips of tape on the cut (incision) the doctor made, leave the tape on for a week or until it falls off. Or follow your doctor's instructions for removing the tape.
- Wash the area daily with warm, soapy water, and pat it dry. Don't use hydrogen peroxide or alcohol, which can slow healing. You may cover the area with a gauze bandage if it weeps or rubs against clothing. Change the bandage every day.
- Keep the area clean and dry.
Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.
When should you call for help?
Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:
- You passed out (lost consciousness).
- You have trouble breathing.
Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:
- You have severe pain in your leg, or it becomes cold, pale, blue, tingly, or numb.
- You have pain that does not get better after you take pain medicine.
- You have loose stitches, or your incision comes open.
- You are bleeding a lot from the incision.
- You have signs of infection, such as:
- Increased pain, swelling, warmth, or redness.
- Red streaks leading from the incision.
- Pus draining from the incision.
- A fever.
- You are sick to your stomach or cannot keep fluids down.
Watch closely for any changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:
- You do not get better as expected.
Where can you learn more?
Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd
Enter P886 in the search box to learn more about "Femoral Endarterectomy: What to Expect at Home".
Current as of: September 7, 2022
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:E. Gregory Thompson MD - Internal Medicine & Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine & Martin J. Gabica MD - Family Medicine & Jeffrey J. Gilbertson MD - Vascular Surgery