Bypass Surgery on Leg Arteries
In people who have long blockages which cannot be treated adequately by angioplasty a bypass may be necessary. In this situation an operation is performed and a tube (either an artificial artery or a surface vein taken from the leg) is sewn onto the artery above and below the blockage. Blood then flows from the artery into the tube and then rejoins the artery below the blockage bypassing it. In general surgical bypass because it is higher risk tends to be reserved for more severe cases, such as when there is pain at rest or gangrene of a toe.
A bypass, showing blood being taken around a blocked artery (see opposite).
In general bypass procedures are much bigger operations than angioplasties often take a week or so in hospital and are higher risk. On the other hand they can often treat blockages that angioplasty cannot and tend to last much better. Often a combination of angioplasty and surgical bypass can be used. The techniques are mutually complimentary rather than one being better than the other.