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Femoral endarterectomy recovery

I had a femoral endarterectomy. Is it common for the knee, calf and ankle to remain swollen and slightly inflamed 9 months later? The pain I had in the calf muscle when walking has gone, so the operation appears to have been successful.

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The answer

An endarterectomy is performed to unblock arteries which have become narrowed or blocked over time by arteriosclerosis (a build-up of fatty substances). When this is performed in your leg it is called a femoral endarterectomy.

During the operation, the femoral artery is exposed and then opened to remove the blockage. If there are any other narrowings or blockages, a small balloon can be inflated in other parts of the artery to increase its diameter.

The femoral artery is then closed. Your surgeon will stitch a synthetic patch or patch of vein to stop any more blockages. Then they will close your leg with stitches or staples.

The operation should help you start walking again – covering longer distances and without pain.

But a femoral endarterectomy is a serious operation and recovery can take a while. It is not unusual to experience some swelling for a month or two after the operation. This is because your the lymphatic drainage system – the channels and glands that your body uses to fight infection and remove fluid – is struggling to drain the area.

In some cases, the swelling can remain due to a phenomenon called lymphoedema. This often occurs if you have an infection, injury, inflammation in the limb or if you aren’t moving it very much.

There’s no treatment for lymphoedema but you can manage the symptoms by:

  • Using compression stockings
  • Elevating your feet when you’re sitting down
  • Making sure you have a healthy lifestyle including a good diet and regular exercise
  • Taking good care of your skin.

Answered by the Health at Hand nurses  

Further Reading

Arteriosclerosis

Lymphoedema

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