What to Know About Bypass Surgery for Peripheral Artery Disease

Medically Reviewed by James Beckerman, MD, FACC on February 14, 2024
2 min read

You can get peripheral artery disease (PAD) when excess plaque — a fatty or waxy substance — builds up in your artery walls. These deposits narrow your arteries and prevent blood from getting to different parts of your body. PAD may cause mild-to-severe leg pain and wounds that won't heal. 

If your arteries are severely clogged or blocked, your doctor may recommend coronary bypass surgery. The procedure redirects blood around a section of a completely or partially blocked artery using a healthy blood vessel. This new path will improve the blood flow to your legs. 

The risks of this procedure may include: 

  • Injury to your blood vessels
  • Mild swelling in your legs
  • Wound complications 
  • Bleeding during or after the surgery
  • Blood clots that can cause a heart attack, stroke, or lung problem 
  • Pain or infection at the incision site

Pneumonia or breathing problems 

  • Abnormal heart rhythms

‌There may be additional risks if you have any underlying medical conditions‌. 

Recovery after bypass surgery for PAD differs for everyone. Typically, you’ll be needed to spend a few days to a week in the hospital. Your doctor may recommend physical therapy during the recovery period. 

During and after recovery, you may feel tired or run down for a few weeks to a month and notice mild pain at the incision site along with swelling in your legs as your body heals. 

After the blood flow is restored, you’ll typically notice your symptoms aren't as bad. They may go away completely after surgery. However, it’s important to maintain a healthy lifestyle to prevent future blockages from coming back.