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Peripheral Artery Bypass Surgery

Surgery to bypass a blocked leg artery can relieve your symptoms. The bypass is done with a graft, a special tube that reroutes blood around a blockage.

Attaching the Graft

Peripheral bypass grafts carry blood from the femoral artery in your thigh to an artery further down your leg. During the surgery, a graft is stitched into the artery above and below your blockage. This creates a new passage for blood flow. The blocked section of your artery is not removed. After the graft is in place, your doctor closes the incisions in your skin with stitches or staples.

Types of Grafts

  • A vein from your own legs or arms can be used as a blood vessel graft. Blood vessel grafts often come from your own leg. Vein grafts work better in long leg blockages that start from your groin and extend below your knee.

  • Manmade (synthetic) grafts are materials that your body easily accepts. These grafts work best on arteries at or above the knee.

Types of Peripheral Bypasses

The type of bypass depends on where your artery is blocked.

Cutaway view of femoral artery
Distal bypass:  Used for the lower part of your leg. Graft may be your vein or both your vein and synthetic material.
Cutaway view of femoral artery
Femoral popliteal bypass: Used for the upper part of your leg. Graft may be either your own vein or synthetic material.

Risks and Complications

  • Bleeding or blood clots

  • Graft blockage

  • Heart attack or stroke

  • Breathing problems

  • Infection

  • Need for second bypass or surgery to remove dead tissue (amputation)

  • Nerve damage and numbness

  • Complications from anesthesia

  • Need for amputation of the  leg after surgery if the bypass does not work as expected (rare)

Online Medical Reviewer: MMI board-certified, academically affiliated clinician
Online Medical Reviewer: Turley, Ray, BSN, MSN
Last Review Date: 3/20/2014
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