Peripheral endarterectomy


A peripheral endarterectomy is the surgical removal of fatty deposits, called plaque, from the walls of arteries other than those of the heart and brain. The surgery is performed when plaque blocks an artery and obstructs the flow of blood and oxygen to other parts of the body, most commonly the legs but also the arms, kidneys, or intestines. The peripheral arteries most often treated with endarterectomy are those that supply the legs, especially the aortoiliac arteries in the pelvic area. Other arteries that may be treated with endarterectomy include the femoral arteries in the groin, the renal arteries that supply the kidneys, and the superior mesenteric arteries that supply the intestines.


Endarterectomy surgeries are performed to treat advanced peripheral arterial disease (PAD). PAD most often occurs as a result of atherosclerosis, a condition characterized by the gradual build up of fats, cholesterol, cellular waste, calcium, and other substances on the inner walls of large and medium-sized arteries. Plaque, the hardened, waxy substance that results from this build up, can cause narrowing (stenosis) of an artery and block the flow of blood and oxygen. Peripheral endarterectomies are performed to reopen blocked arteries and to restore blood flow in the body (revascularization), helping to prevent heart attack, stroke, the amputation of a limb, organ failure, or death.


People who have been diagnosed with PAD caused by atherosclerosis are at high risk of arterial blockage (occlusion) and are candidates for peripheral endarterectomy. Occlusive arterial disease is found in 15 to 20% of men and women older than age 70. When found in people younger than 70, it occurs more often in men than in women, particularly in those who have ever smoked or who have diabetes. Women with PAD live longer than men with the same condition, which accounts for the equal incidence in older Americans. African-Americans have been shown to be at greater risk for arterial occlusion than other racial groups in the United States.


PAD is a progressive occlusive disease of the arteries, common in older people who have ever smoked or who have diabetes. Although there are other forms of arterial disease that affect peripheral arteries (Buerger's disease, Raynaud's disease, and acrocyanosis), PAD in most people is caused by widespread artherosclerosis, the accumulation of plaque on the inner lining (endothelium) of the artery walls. Most commonly, occlusive PAD develops in the legs, including the femoral arteries that supply the thighs with blood or in the common iliac arteries, which are branches of the lower abdominal aorta that also supply the legs. The arteries that supply the shoulders and arms are less commonly affected. Branches of the aorta that deliver blood to the kidneys, the infrarenal aorta and renal arteries, can become narrowed as a result of artherosclerosis, but are only rarely blocked suddenly and completely, a condition requiring immediate surgery. Even more rare is blockage of the branches that supply the liver and spleen.

The development of atherosclerosis and PAD is influenced by heredity and also by lifestyle factors, such as dietary habits and levels of exercise . The risk factors for atherosclerosis include:

Just as coronary artery disease (CAD) can cause a heart attack when plaque blocks the arteries of the heart, or blockage in the carotid artery leading to the brain can cause a stroke, blockage of the peripheral arteries can create life-threatening conditions. When peripheral arteries have become narrowed by plaque accumulation (atheroma), the flow of oxygen-carrying blood to the arms, legs, or body organs will be interrupted, which can cause cell death from lack of oxygen (ischemia) and nutrition. Normal growth and cell repair cannot take place, which can lead to gangrene in the limbs and subsequent amputation. When blood flow is blocked to internal organs, such as the kidneys or intestines, the result of tissue death can be the shutdown of the affected organ system and systemic (whole body) poisoning from waste accumulation. Death can result if emergency surgery is not performed to correct the blockage.

In some cases, the body will attempt to change the flow of blood when a portion of an artery is blocked by plaque. Smaller arteries around the blockage will begin to take some of the blood flow. This adaptation of the body (collateral circulation) is one reason for a lack of symptoms in some people who actually have PAD. Symptoms usually occur when the blockage is over 70% or when complete blockage occurs as a result of a piece of plaque breaking off and blocking the artery. Blockage in the legs, for example, will reduce or cut off circulation, causing painful cramping in the legs during walking (intermittent claudication) and pain in the feet during rest, especially during the night. When an artery gradually becomes narrowed by plaque, the symptoms are not as severe as when sudden, complete blockage occurs. Sudden blockage does not offer time for collateral vessels to develop and symptoms can be equally sudden and dramatic. Possible symptoms of reduced blood flow in the most typically affected arteries include:

Sudden, complete occlusion of an artery can also happen when a clot (thrombus) forms in an already narrowed artery. Clot formation (thrombosis) can occur anywhere in the body and travel to a narrowed portion of an affected artery and become lodged (embolism), blocking blood flow. Clots can sometimes be dissolved with anticoagulant drug therapy. When this therapy is not effective or a life-threatening blockage occurs suddenly, clots can be surgically removed using thromboendarterectomy, a procedure similar to peripheral endarterectomy.

Early treatment for PAD may include medical treatment to reduce the underlying causes: lowering cholesterol, lowering blood pressure, stopping smoking, increasing exercise, and reducing the likelihood of clot formation. Clot-dissolving drugs (thrombolytic drugs) may also be used to remove a clot medically rather than to perform surgery. When these measures are not effective, or an artery becomes completely blocked, peripheral endarterectomy may be performed to remove the blockage (see also angioplasty and peripheral vascular bypass surgery ). Treatment of risk factors must continue, because surgery only corrects the immediate problem, not the underlying causes.

Peripheral endarterectomy works best in narrow areas like the leg where the artery can be easily accessed, or when there is complete blockage of an artery by an atheroma that is short in length. Endarterectomy does not work as well for smaller arteries lower in the leg or in the foot or arm. Drug therapy, angiography , stent placement, or surgical bypass may be used to treat blockages of the arteries in these areas.

Patients undergoing peripheral endarterectomy will typically be given general anesthesia. The surgery is an open surgical procedure in which a vascular surgeon makes a relatively large incision in the outer skin to access the obstructed artery being treated. In order to perform the surgery, the blood that normally flows through the artery must first be rerouted through a tube connecting the blood vessels below and above the surgical site. The surgeon will then cut the obstructed artery lengthwise and will use surgical tools to clean away the accumulation of plaque. The hard, waxy substance comes out fairly easily, sometimes in a single piece. The artery will then be sutured closed or patched with a piece of a vein, usually from the patient's leg, to enlarge the repaired artery and prevent later narrowing from post-operative scarring. The entire procedure will take about one hour if there are no complications.


A complete patient history is essential to diagnosis, particularly information about family members who may have had diabetes or early cardiovascular disease. Symptoms will be important diagnostic indicators, letting the physician know what areas of the body may have reduced blood flow. Blood pressure will be taken in the arms and legs. Pulses will be measured in the arms, armpits, wrists, groin, ankles, and behind the knees. This will show where blockages may exist, since the pulse below a blockage is usually absent. Additionally, a stethoscope will be used to listen for abnormal sounds in the arteries that may indicate narrowing. Blood flow procedures may be performed, including:

If ultrasonography or angiography procedures were not performed earlier to diagnose arterial blockage, these tests will be performed before surgery to evaluate the amount of plaque and the extent and exact location of narrowing. Aspirin therapy or other clot-prevention medication may be prescribed before surgery. Any underlying medical condition, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, or diabetes will be treated prior to peripheral endarterectomy to help get the best result from the surgery. Upon admission to the hospital , routine blood and urine tests will be performed.


After the peripheral endarterectomy, the patient's blood pressure, temperature, and heart rate will be monitored in a hospital recovery room for an hour or more, and the surgical site will be checked regularly. The patient will then be transferred to a concentrated care unit to be observed for any sign of complications. The total hospital stay may be two to three days. When the patient returns home, activities can be resumed gradually. Walking and strenuous activity may be restricted, especially if surgery was performed on the groin or leg. During recuperation, the patient may be given pain medication as needed and clot-prevention (anticoagulant) medication. Patients will be advised to reduce the risk factors for artherosclerosis in order to avoid repeat narrowing or blockage of the arteries. Repeat stenosis (restenosis) has been shown to occur frequently in people who do not make the necessary changes in lifestyle, such as changes in diet, exercise, and quitting smoking. The benefits of the surgery may only be temporary if underlying disease, such as artherosclerosis, high blood pressure, or diabetes, is not also treated.


The risks associated with peripheral endarterectomy primarily involve the underlying conditions that led to blockage of arteries in the first place. Embolism is the most serious post-operative risk; a clot or piece of tissue from the endarterectomy site that may travel to the heart, brain, or lungs can cause heart attack, stroke, or death. Restenosis, the continuing build-up of plaque, can occur within months to years after surgery if risk factors are not controlled. Other complications may include:

Normal results

The outcomes of peripheral endarterectomy as a treatment for arterial blockage are usually good. Blood flow can be restored quickly to relieve symptoms and help prevent heart attack, stroke, organ failure, or limb amputation.

Morbidity and mortality rates

Morbidity and mortality depend upon the artery involved, the extent of the blockage, and the patient's overall condition, which directly influences response to the surgery. Time is also a factor. In cases of sudden and complete blockage of the mesenteric arteries, for example, only immediate surgery can save the person's life.

Although death does not frequently occur during peripheral endarterectomy surgery, patients with widespread atherosclerosis and PAD have been shown to have increased morbidity and mortality associated with coronary artery disease, because of the common risk factors, such as cigarette smoking, high blood pressure, and diabetes. PAD patients with diabetes are shown to represent 50% of all amputations. However, only a small percentage of patients undergoing peripheral endarterectomy will suffer limb loss or associated disability and reduced quality of life.


Peripheral endarterectomy removes plaque directly from blocked arteries; there is no alternative way to mechanically remove plaque. However, there are alternative ways to prevent plaque build-up and reduce the risk of narrowing or blocking the peripheral arteries. Certain vitamin deficiencies in older people, for example, are known to promote high levels of homocysteine, an amino acid that contributes to atherosclerosis and a higher risk for PAD. Some nutritional supplements and alternative therapies that are recommended to help promote good vascular health include:



Cranton, Elmer MD., ed. Bypassing Bypass Surgery: Chelation Therapy: A Non-Surgical Treatment for Reversing Arteriosclerosis, Improving Blocked Circulation, and Slowing the Aging Process. Hampton Roads Pub. Co., 2001.

McDougal, Gene. Unclog Your Arteries: How I Beat Artherosclerosis. 1st Books Library, Nov 2001.


American Heart Association (AHA). 7272 Greenville Ave., Dallas, TX 75231. (800) 242-8721. .

Vascular Disease Foundation. 3333 South Wadsworth Blvd. B104-37, Lakewood, CO 80227. (303) 949-8337; (866) PADINFO (723-4636). .


Hirsch, Alan T. MD. "Occlusive Peripheral Arterial Disease." The Merck Manual of Medicine. Home Edition [cited July 7, 2003]. .

"Patient Information: Frequently Asked Questions." Peripheral Vascular Surgery Society [cited July 7, 2003]. .

L. Lee Culvert


Peripheral endarterectomy is performed in a hospital operating room by a vascular surgeon.


User Contributions:

After the femoral endarterectomy, is it common for severe burning on the upper front of the thigh, if move wrong the burn can take you to your knees and bring tears. And if this is common how long does it usually last. There is still numbness on inside of thigh to knee also, is this common? I guess I should say I had the surgery on July 14, 2010.
I had an endarterectomy about 3 weeks ago with A patch {17.12.10}.My leg from the groin has ben swollen to thE toes since .Is this normal and if so how long can this take to get surgen is happy with the pulses from my foot. my gron is lumpy from the point of surgery.what excersize should I do and or avoid at this stage.I get some pain on the side of my foot in the early hours of the this to be expected and will it eventually go away
Is Femoral Blockage treatment/surgery considered an "Elective" surgery? My doctor is saying that becuase this is "elective" the charity care will not pay for the surgery, so the doctor will not perform it unless I pay for it. I have no means to pay for this, that is why I am a Charity Care patient.
I had femoral endarterectomy surgery done in October of 2010 on my right leg. From the knee up on the inside of my leg I still have the numbness feel and it is sensitive to the touch. It seems to have improved slightly. Hopefully it will feel much better within 1 years time. On the bright side I can now walk for long distances with no pain.
My dad had endarterectomy surgery of his left artery three days ago (the surgeon removed the blockage of the artery and put a patch on it, we were told it was an artificial patch. Surgeon also fixed a very small aneurysm of this same artery, some small branches of it …no graft though). Dad was discharged from the hospital the day before yesterday, so it’s only been three days since the surgery. No complaints so far, he is doing very well, except for: ***His inner side of the left leg (same leg where the surgery was done) feels a little numb. He can walk with no pain and the pulse is great on both legs, we are just wondering is this numb feeling okay? We are thinking the reason for this is perhaps the fact that some nerves may have been affected during the surgery. Doctor said this was “okay” when we asked about it when dad was still in the hospital. Is this really “okay”? Will it ever go away? -- Also, it is normal to notice small Swallowing around the wound?

Info on endarterecotmy for Johnnie's procedure coming up. Hope this helps.
Is Endarterectomy also used for removing coronary stents from heart vessels?

How much is it safe?

What is the best approach for removing coronary stents?

Is it maybe possible by Biomicrorobots?
May I see the answer to Ella because I had this done and have numbness and pain in my testicle (left). Will this be ok?
Nancy Park
How do you get answers to the questions asked here?
John Martis
My coronary arteries are blocked by about 90% and I get angina pain. I will be shortly going for angioiplasty. Is this treatment effective and results permanent? Or are the results temporary and the blockages will come back again? I am observing all the precautions advised by the doctor and have reduced my body weight considerably.
carole lamb
I would like to see answers to above questions. I'm having this surgury in 10 days and I'm a little frightened. Thank you.
Thomas Graves
Is the swelling in the calf and ankle normal. Also, the drain below the incision is still draining slightly. Is this to be expected. Thanks. Also, in the late afternoon I run a temperature of 99 degrees. Thanks
i ve just had this procedure and it is now two weeks and one day. although the pain of the surgery is easing each day i can say that so far all is well and i have no swelling of the feet or knees. feel fre to e'mail me for udates as the weeks on, and my health improves, can teou that i could hardly walk before so any improvement is welcome if it is without pain. thankyou guys and st toms in london.
Jerry Jayne
I, too, would like to read the answers to the above questions. How can I get to them so I can read them?
Mohammad Fahim
After surgery, operation done on femoral vein of leg how will be the result after how many days it will be on normal condition?
Magi Hayes
I am scheduled for a ultra sound on my legs to determine how my blood is circulating, I have also had a electrode nerve test done by my podiatrist who works with the cardiologist. The prognosis so far is that I will most probably have the plaque removal of PAD in at least one leg if not both. I have hardness on my left ankle and darkening skin. I have had a darker spot on this leg for the last thirty years called venus statis. Until now, no doc has said I should have anything done, but it is hard to walk and there is pain, in my heavy legs and toes now.
Had Endarterectomy right leg 1week ago. Is this normal? Goin hard and sore. Foot very swollen and trendier nous above knee inside of leg?
Very educative. The simplicity of it all makes it easier to read and comprehend.
Ray Walsh
Wonderful and educative article. keep up the good work. I hope to have an endarectomy as soon as possible.
I read the post by Ron posted February 27, 2011. I had the same thing done to my left leg near the groin on September 17, 2015. I have spent months trying to get more answers to some of my questions. I have the same feeling of numbness and sensitivity to touch between the groin and halfway down to the knee. Apparently it should adjust as time goes by. I am grateful to be able to walk again so that part is tolerable.
My dad had 100% plaque blockage of femoral artery, 90% plaque blockage of branch off artery with the 10% remaining having a clot in it. This was his left leg. A femoral endarterectomy was performed and his own vein was used to repair the femoral artery. He was released from the CCCU within 24 hours of surgery. Four days post-op he started having massive amounts of clear fluid draining from his incision and on the 7th day the surgeon saw him, opened up his incision, said it was a lymphatic leak and readmitted to the hospital for wound vac and iv antibiotic treatment. I was informed that the lymph leak was a common complication, is that correct?
I had this surgery done on both legs nearly three weeks ago. After reading all the above notes nobody has mentioned the lack of sleep, which is what I am suffering with at the moment. I was just wondering if the lack of sleep is caused by nerves in the body, I also get twitching in my hands & legs. Can anybody help.
Had peripheral vascular bypass surgery about a month ago and my foot and leg are still swollen. What can I do?
I had an Endarterectomy done 4 weeks ago. They inserted a bulb drain which has been draining at the same rate 250ccs in a 24 hour period. My Doctor wants to give it 2 more weeks and if not it may be a lymphatic leak. If so how is it corrected?
I was released from the hospital yesterday. I had 90 percent blockage. My compliant is severe pain where the insertion was made. It is almost impossible for me to get up and down. How long will it be before it improves. It would be most helpful to read the answers to the questions. Please help me in getting to the answers
I had this done 3 days ago pain is bad , staples in groin are weird . I am swollen up .

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