Under normal circumstances, the human circulatory system does a remarkable job of routing blood throughout the body like clockwork. The blood vessels act as conduits that help the blood get where it needs to go. However, certain medical conditions can interfere with this passage, potentially allowing limbs to die.
Fortunately, modern cardiovascular medicine includes several techniques to save a limb that might once have required amputation. If you suffer from a severe circulatory condition that affects one of your limbs, you should learn what you can about these options. Start by examining the following frequently asked questions.
Why Do Doctors Perform Limb Salvage Surgery?
Doctors perform limb salvage surgery to restore the flow of blood to a limb that has largely lost this vital function. One typical scenario involves a condition called peripheral artery disease. In this disease, cholesterol deposits build up in the arteries, reducing their ability to feed blood to an arm or leg.
Limb salvage surgery may also rescue a limb threatened by critical limb ischemia. This more severe version of peripheral artery disease deprives the tissues of blood to the point that they may start to die. This condition typically causes pain in the affected limb. Open sores that appear on the limb may refuse to heal.
In the past, a dangerous loss of blood in a limb from either of these conditions often left no treatment option other than amputation. However, limb salvage surgery can allow you to keep the affected limb through procedures that create new pathways for healthy circulation and normal healing.
What Forms Can Limb Salvage Surgery Take?
Limb salvage surgery can take several forms, depending on your condition. If you suffer from peripheral artery disease, an angioplasty might resolve the problem. In this minimally invasive procedure, the surgeon inserts and inflates a small balloon inside the artery. The pressure pushes the fatty deposits aside for improved blood flow.
A procedure called an atherectomy takes the manipulation of fatty deposits a step further. Instead of simply flattening the deposits, your surgeon will actually scrape them away from the artery walls using a long, thin catheter and tiny blades. X-ray imagery guides the surgeon’s hand throughout the procedure.
If your surgeon can’t restore function to the diseased blood vessel, you may receive a peripheral artery bypass instead. True to its name, a bypass provides an alternate route for blood flow by bypassing the blocked portion of the diseased artery. The surgeon will either graft a vein from your leg or install an artificial blood vessel.
What Should You Expect From Limb Salvage Surgery?
Before you have limb salvage surgery, you and your doctor will discuss the selected procedure in detail. You will undergo a pre-operative physical to make sure you can safely receive the surgery, along with a kind of diagnostic imaging called an angiogram to reveal the exact location and severity of the arterial blockage.
You’ll receive general anesthesia before undergoing a limb salvage procedure. An angioplasty or atherectomy calls for just a few small external incisions, while a peripheral artery bypass requires a more invasive approach. Whatever procedure you receive, plan for a brief hospital stay immediately afterward.
How Can You Optimize Your Post-Surgical Recovery?
Once your limb enjoys normal circulation again, the pain, coldness, or other symptoms associated with your condition should become a thing of the past. However, your body might still need some extra help in healing any open sores that couldn’t heal before. Your surgeon may recommend stem cell therapy or other wound healing treatments.
Your surgeon may encourage you to start walking and moving around the day after your surgery to speed healing. However, you may need to avoid strenuous activity for several weeks. Keep your incisions away from water until they’ve fully healed.
Whether you need limb salvage surgery or some other form of cardiovascular treatment, the experts at Cardio Vascular Institute can help. We can monitor and treat many diseases and disorders that involve the heart, arteries, or veins. Contact our clinic to schedule a consultation and discuss your treatment options.