What is a Vascular Bypass?

K.C. Bruning

The term "vascular bypass" means to provide a new path for the flow of blood through the body. It is a process undertaken through surgery, where alternate routes are created by either adding synthetic tubing or moving and reconnecting existing blood vessels. A vascular bypass is often performed with larger veins, such as those in the legs, though cerebral and heart bypass surgeries are also common. Whenever possible, vascular bypass surgery is completed without the introduction of synthetic elements to the body. This usually consists of cutting one artery and attaching it to another in order to create the new path for blood flow.

The type of vascular bypass performed depends on the needs of each patient.
The type of vascular bypass performed depends on the needs of each patient.

Whether or not the flow of blood to the new artery is stopped or slowed down during the surgery depends on the method used. When possible, the blood flow is simply impeded, as this is a safer, faster, and less invasive method. If it is critical that the vessel receives a continuous flow of blood, a procedure called excimer laser assisted non-occlusive anastomosis, more commonly known as ELANA, is used to perform the operation. The ELANA method is typically used for cerebral or heart bypass surgery.

Vascular bypass surgery is usually performed when other attempts to treat hardening of the arteries have failed. It is typically only used to avoid serious conditions such as amputation of a limb or a heart attack. In some cases several arteries are blocked and a procedure known as a multiple bypass must be performed.

A doctor will typically perform a series of tests and examinations in order to determine if a patient is a good candidate for vascular bypass surgery. Details such as any patient history with bypass surgery, other cases of vascular disease, and issues with cardiorespiratory function will be considered. Conditions such as diabetes and excessive weight can also be a factor in a doctor’s decision to pursue the surgery.

There are other tests that can help medical professionals to prepare for the surgery as well. A surgeon may also develop a detailed visual representation of the arteries by performing an angiography. An ultrasound can also be a helpful tool in aiding a surgeon to plan a new pathway for the blood flow.

After the successful completion of vascular bypass surgery, a patient usually must regularly attend follow-up examinations with a doctor. The amount of post-surgery observation depends on how well the patient is recovering. It can take anywhere from a month to half a year to fully recover from the surgery.

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