Lower Leg Bypass Graft
This handout will tell you how to take care of yourself at home after your lower leg bypass graft (surgery to restore blood flow to your legs). Your nurse will review this sheet with you before you go home. If you have more questions once you are home, you may call PVS clinic at (608) 263-8915. To reach a doctor after hours, call hospital paging (608) 263-6400 and ask for the vascular surgery doctor on call. Give paging your name and phone number with the area code. The doctor will call you back. If you live out of the area, call 1-800-323-8942.
Care of the Incision
There are several layers of stitches holding your wound together on the inside. By the time you go home, your skin is usually closed on the outside with staples. At your first clinic visit, your staples may be removed and small pieces of tape called Steri-Strips may be placed along the incision to help support it for a few days. You may get the staples wet in the shower, but do not swim or take tub baths. Clean the area gently with mild soap and water removing any dried drainage. Leave the incision open to air unless told otherwise.
You may also shower with the Steri-Strips in place, but do not soak them for any length of time. Also, do not rub the incision; just allow the water to flow gently over the area. When done in the shower, gently pat the incision dry. As your wound heals, the Steri-Strips will begin to curl up at the ends. You may trim the curled ends with a scissors. In time the Steri-Strips will fall off on their own. If they do not, then you can remove them after one week.
When to Call your Doctor
Twice each day you should look at your staples. Please call the PVS Clinic or the vascular surgery doctor on call (see above) if you have:
- An increase in redness or warmth at the site of the incision or red streaks on your skin that extend from the site where the stitches are.
- Bulging or swelling at the incision. More swelling in your leg than you have had before if it does not go down after raising them overnight.
- New drainage or bleeding from your incision, or open spots between the stitches where the skin is pulling apart.
- A temperature of more than 101.5 F (38.5 C) by mouth for 2 readings taken 4 hours apart.
- If you notice the skin along the incision is getting darker or turning black.
- Numbness in your foot or leg.
- Your leg or foot becomes cooler to the touch.
- A change in the color of your leg. It becomes grey/white or bluish/purple.
By the time you are discharged from the hospital, you should have resumed a number of your basic daily activities, but you will need to allow for extra rest periods. You may notice that you tire more easily than before surgery, this is normal. Your strength and energy level will increase as your body recovers from surgery. Walking is encouraged but it is important to increase your walking gradually. In the first few weeks after surgery, try to elevate your leg frequently throughout the day.
There are some things that should be avoided in the first few weeks after surgery.
- Do not lift anything heavier than 5-10 pounds for 2 weeks.
- No driving until OK'd by your doctor, usually not until after the first clinic visit.
- Avoid contact sports or vigorous exercise.
- Ask your doctor at your follow-up appointment when you may return to work and resume sexual activity.
- Do not sit with your knees bent for long periods of time, use a recliner if possible.
It is normal to have some pain at the suture line. Your doctor has prescribed pain medicine for you to use at home. This is often the same medicine you have been getting here. As healing occurs, comfort along the incision improves and you will need less for pain. Your pain may be relieved with an over-the-counter pain reliever. Consult your doctor before starting.
You may resume your regular diet when you return home. You should avoid constipation. Decreased activity as well as some prescription pain medicines can cause constipation. You can prevent constipation by drinking plenty of fluids and by eating foods high in fiber (whole grain breads and cereals, fresh fruit and vegetables). If this is not effective, you may us an over-the-counter stool softener or laxative. If problems continue, call your doctor.
Are You at Risk for Poor Blood Flow to the Legs and Feet?
You are more likely to have poor blood flow to the legs if you:
- Have high blood pressure
- Have high cholesterol
- Have diabetes
- Are over age 50
- Do not exercise
- Have heart disease in your family
How Do I take Care of Legs and Feet with Poor Blood Flow?
- Look at legs and feet daily for sores, scratches, cracks blisters or reddened areas. Report them to your doctor or nurse.
- Wash your legs and feet daily with mild soap and water. Avoid soaking. Dry well.
- Put lotion on dry skin daily
- Let a doctor or nurse clip your toenails or show you how to clip toenails.
- Wear shoes that fit well.
- Wear white cotton or wool socks.
- Check shoes and socks for stones, sharp things, or holes.
- Do not use heating pads or hot water bottles on legs or feet.
- Never go barefoot.
Fahey, Victoria A. 4th ed. Vascular Nursing. Philadelphia: WB Saunders Co., 2004.
Dehydration: How to Recognize and Prevent Its Effects. www.medicinenet.com
Ask the Experts! Questions Regarding: Causes and Treatments of Constipation. www.medicinenet.com.
The information provided should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed physician should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
Last Updated: 03/24/2011
Copyright © 03/24/2011 University of Wisconsin Hospitals and Clinics Authority. All rights reserved. Produced by the Department of Nursing. HF#4888
Print Health Fact For You