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How is an artery blockage in the leg treated?

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Doctors often treat localized blockage in larger arteries in the leg using angioplasty and stenting, according to the Society for Vascular Surgery. Surgical bypass and endarterectomy are other options for treating blocked arteries in the leg characteristic of peripheral artery disease caused by the buildup of plaque.

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Although medication, exercise and lifestyle modifications often control mild instances of peripheral artery disease, advance disease often requires surgical intervention, notes the Society for Vascular Surgery. The first line of treatment is generally angioplasty, which involves the insertion of a thin-shaped catheter into the affected artery. The surgeon inserts a balloon-type device into the catheter to push the plaque inside the artery against the artery’s walls, allowing blood to flow more freely. The placement of a stent to keep the artery open is usually a part of the angioplasty procedure.

Doctors may also recommend bypass surgery for the treatment of blockages in the arteries of the legs, notes the Society for Vascular Surgery. During a bypass, the surgeon creates a new path for blood to flow, bypassing the blocked portion of the artery. The surgeon creates the bypass using a man-made tube or a vein harvested from the patient. Endarterectomy, which involves the surgeon incising the leg and physically removing the plaque from the artery, is another option, depending on the extent of the blockage and its location.

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