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Peripheral Artery Angioplasty: What to Expect at Home

Your Recovery

Your groin or leg may have a bruise or a small lump where the catheter was put in your groin. The area may feel sore for a day or two after the procedure. You can do light activities around the house but nothing strenuous for several days.

After surgery, blood may flow better throughout your leg, which can decrease leg pain, numbness, and cramping.

This care sheet gives you a general idea about how long it will take for you to recover but each person recovers at a different pace. Follow the steps below to feel better as quickly as possible.

How can you care for yourself at home?

If you have no problems after the procedure, you can go home and rest for the day. Have a responsible adult take you home (do not drive yourself). If you live out of town, it’s a good idea to stay somewhere overnight within 1 hour of where the procedure was done. Don’t drive for the next 24 to 48 hours or while you’re taking strong pain medicine.

Activity

  • Don’t do hard exercise or lift anything heavy (more than 4.5 kg or 10 lb.) until your doctor says it’s okay, usually for about 1 week. You can walk around the house and do light activity, such as cooking. Try not to bend, squat, or climb stairs for 24 hours after the procedure.
  • Don’t wear tight or stiff clothing over the procedure site.
  • Go back to regular exercise when your doctor says it’s okay. Walking is a good choice.
  • You will probably need to take a few days off work. It depends on the type of work you do and how you feel.
  • If your job includes heavy lifting, using machines, or hard activity, talk to your doctor about when you can go back to work.

Diet

  • You can eat your normal diet.
  • Drink plenty of fluids (unless your doctor tells you not to).

Medicines

  • Your doctor will tell you if and when you can restart your medicines. They will also give you instructions about taking any new medicines.
  • If you take blood thinners, ask your doctor if and when to start taking them again. Make sure that you understand exactly what your doctor wants you to do.
  • Be safe with medicines. Take your medicines exactly as prescribed. Call your doctor if you think you are having a problem with your medicine.
  • Your doctor may prescribe a blood thinner when you go home. This helps prevent blood clots. Be sure you get instructions about how to take your medicine safely. Blood thinners can cause serious bleeding problems.

Care of the catheter site

  • When you leave the hospital you may have a dressing covering the procedure site. Leave the dressing on until the morning after the procedure, then change it (ask your healthcare provider how to change the dressing). It’s very important to keep the site clean and dry.
  • You may shower 24 to 48 hours after the procedure. Pat the incision dry.
  • Don’t take baths, use hot tubs, or go swimming until the procedure site no longer has a scab and is completely healed. Don’t use any creams, lotions, or ointments on the procedure site.
  • Watch for bleeding from the site. A small amount of blood (up to the size of a quarter) on the bandage can be normal.

Ice

  • You may want to put ice or a cold pack on the catheter site for 10 to 15 minutes at a time to help with soreness or swelling. Put a thin cloth between the ice and your skin.
If you start bleeding or have a fast-growing, painful lump at the procedure site, call 911 and do the following:
  1. Lie down and call for someone to help you (a friend or family member).
  2. Put pressure on the procedure site with your fingers or fist. Hold this pressure for 20 minutes.
  3. If the bleeding stops, lie still, and stay like that until emergency help arrives.
  4. If the bleeding does not stop, keep firm pressure to the procedure site until emergency help arrives.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

When should you call for help?

Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • You passed out (lost consciousness).
  • You have severe trouble breathing (shortness of breath).
  • You have sudden chest pain and shortness of breath, or you cough up blood.
  • Your groin is very swollen and you have a lump that is getting bigger under your skin where the catheter was put in.
  • You have bleeding from the procedure site that doesn't stop (for example, bright red blood has soaked through your bandage).

Call your doctor or nurse call line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You have severe pain in your leg, or it becomes cold, pale, blue, tingly, or numb.
  • You have signs of infection, such as:
    • Increased pain, swelling, warmth, or redness of the skin.
    • Red streaks leading from the area.
    • Pus draining from the area.
    • A fever over 38.5 ºC (101.3 ºF) or chills.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse call line if you have any problems.

Where can you learn more?

Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

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