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Popliteal Aneurysm Surgery - How It Works & Recovery

Updated on March 2, 2015
A cutaway showing the affected nerve
A cutaway showing the affected nerve | Source

Introduction

A popliteal aneurysm is caused due to a weakening of the walls of the popliteal artery which supplies blood to the legs. Popliteal Aneurysm Surgery or PAS is a surgical procedure carried out on the artery.

In this article we explore:

  • What is a popliteal aneurysm?
  • How are popliteal aneurysms diagnosed?
  • How is popliteal aneurysm surgery performed?
  • What is the recovery time from this type of surgery?
  • Are there likely to be any risks or complications as a result of PAS?

What is a popliteal aneurysm?

A popliteal aneurysm occurs due to the weakening of the wall of the popliteal artery. This artery supplies blood to the thigh, knee and calf. When the artery wall weakens, this causes a bulge in the artery, known as an aneurysm.

If left untreated, the aneurysm can burst, leaking blood into the surrounding tissue of the leg. This can become a life-threatening condition due to several reasons:

  • Internal bleeding from the artery, resulting in significant blood loss and dropping of blood pressure.
  • Blood not being supplied to the leg, causing the limb to not receive the oxygen and nutrients that it needs to function.
  • Blood clots forming in the artery and surrounding areas; these blood clots can cause a blockage in the circulatory system or a stroke if they reach the brain.

For these reasons, surgery is an urgent requirement as soon as an aneurysm is detected.

The anatomy around the popliteal artery
The anatomy around the popliteal artery | Source

How are popliteal aneurysms diagnosed?

A popliteal aneurysm may be detected during a routine exam by a doctor or occasionally as a result of localized pain or weakness in the leg, especially behind the knee or in the foot.

If a doctor suspects a popliteal aneurysm, they will request an ultrasound exam of the affected area. This exam will confirm if there is an aneurysm or any blood clots.

The surgery is normally straightforward, quick and low risk
The surgery is normally straightforward, quick and low risk | Source

How is popliteal aneurysm surgery performed?

PAS is normally a low risk procedure and the repairs made during the surgery are often long-lasting and durable. During the procedure, a surgeon will:

  1. Make an incision in the leg close to the site of the aneurysm.
  2. Repair the aneurysm by using another section of a patient's vein or an artificial artery substitute; this is known as a bypass.
  3. Ensure that blood is flowing correctly following the repair.
  4. Suture the incision site.

Recovery is normally quite straightforward
Recovery is normally quite straightforward | Source

What is the recovery time from this type of surgery?

Depending on the patient, recovery times can vary. Typical recovery times are:

  • A hospital stay of three to five days after the operation.
  • Walking with assistance after three to five days.
  • Removal of sutures or staples after seven to ten days.
  • Light walking activities and exercise after two to three weeks.
  • Normal walking activities and exercise after four to six weeks.

Are there likely to be any risks or complications as a result of PAS?

  • If the artery was completely blocked, recovery can be much more prolonged and could take several weeks to several months.
  • Recovery times can also be impacted by a patient's level of fitness, lifestyle, nutrition and several other factors.
  • Most patients will not need crutches as a result of the surgery.

Outcomes for Endovascular Treatment of Popliteal Aneurysms are Similar to Open Repair

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In closing

If you believe that you may be suffering from a popliteal aneurysm, you should be examined by your doctor as soon as possible. Providing that it is identified and treated early, a popliteal aneurysm need not have any ongoing or long-term impact on a patient's quality of life.

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