Femoropopliteal bypass surgery is used to bypass diseased blood vessels above or below the knee. Your doctor used something called a graft to make the blood go around (bypass) the narrowed or blocked part of your blood vessel.
You will have some pain from the cuts (incisions) the doctor made. This usually gets better after about 1 week. Your doctor will give you pain medicine for this. You can expect your leg to be swollen at first. This is a normal part of recovery and may last 2 or 3 months.
You will have stitches or staples in the incisions. If you have stitches, they may dissolve on their own. Or your doctor may take them out 7 to 14 days after your surgery.
You will need to take it easy for 2 to 6 weeks at home. It may take 6 to 12 weeks to fully recover.
After surgery, blood may flow better throughout your leg, which can decrease leg pain, numbness, and cramping. You will need to have regular checkups with your doctor to make sure the graft is working.
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 each 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.
- If you work, you may need to take 2 to 6 weeks off, depending on your job.
- Eat heart-healthy foods. These include fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. If you have not been eating this way, talk to your doctor. You also may want to talk to a dietitian. This expert can help you learn about healthy foods and plan meals.
- 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. The doctor 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 you are not taking a prescription pain medicine, ask your doctor if you can take an over-the-counter medicine.
- If the doctor gave you a prescription medicine for pain, take it as prescribed.
- Store your prescription pain medicines where no one else can get to them. When you are done using them, dispose of them quickly and safely. Your local pharmacy or hospital may have a drop-off site.
- 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 bandages on the incisions, follow your doctor's instructions about changing them.
- If you have strips of tape on the incisions, leave the tape on for a week or until it falls off.
- 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 oozes or rubs against clothing. Change the bandage every day.
- You may shower if your doctor says it is okay. Do not take a bath for the first 2 weeks or until your doctor tells you it is okay.
- Prop up your leg on a pillow anytime you sit or lie down for the first 3 days. Try to keep it above the level of your heart. This will help reduce swelling.
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 sudden symptoms in your leg or foot such as severe pain, numbness, weakness, tingling, cool skin, or skin color changes. Your skin may be pale, bluish, or purplish.
- You have pain that does not get better after you take pain medicine.
- You have loose stitches, or your incisions come open.
- You are bleeding a lot from the incisions.
- 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?
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