I’m home! I had surgery on Monday, February 12th and things seem to be going a lot smoother this time around.
DISCLAIMER: Don’t scroll to the bottom of the page if you don’t want to see photos from the surgery.
For those of you that don’t know, this surgery was a little different than the one I had on my other leg. My left popliteal artery was being compressed whenever I went into plantarflexion. Luckily, it wasn’t damaged enough to require a bypass like the right one. The artery just needed to be freed up a bit from the surrounding muscle.
It’s difficult to tell exactly what is compressing the artery from imaging alone. The only way to know exactly what’s going on is when the surgery is actually performed. When they opened me up they found that the artery ran a slightly different path than it was supposed to – more medially. Plus, it was embedded in the medial head of the gastrocnemius (calf muscle) and was being pushed up against the tibia when I would move. Basically, it was being repeatedly crushed. My doctors said it was probably only a matter of time before that artery occluded like the right one.
There are various types of popliteal artery entrapment syndrome. I was told that my anatomy was a mix between Type 1 and Type 2, but mostly looked like Type 2.
My doctors took out the piece of muscle that was overlaying the artery. Hopefully now since the artery isn’t impinged by the muscle the blood flow will return to normal, and my calf pain will go away. Fingers crossed! There’s a picture at the bottom of this post that was taken during the surgery. My doctors were nice enough to take a picture for me of my leg before they closed it up and the muscle that was removed.
The surgery lasted 2-3 hours and everything went smoothly. However, waking up from anesthesia went a little bit differently and I’m still kind of confused about what happened exactly. The first thing I remember when I was coming to was someone saying, “Laurel, you’re just waking up from surgery. Everything went fine, but you need to stop moving. You’re gonna hurt yourself.” I was completely disoriented, but after peeping my eyes open and seeing the bright lights I pieced together that I was in the OR. Someone else asked, “Laurel, what’s wrong?” to which I didn’t really have an answer besides needing to cough after having the breathing tube in. Finally, I heard, “Okay, everybody stop touching her. Just let her be. Laurel, do me a favor and take some deep breaths.” I think at that point I finally started calming down. From what? I have no idea.
I then heard the staff talking about how younger people sometimes wake up really agitated, but that they don’t see it very often because most people having surgery are older than me. It’s called emergence delirium and happens mostly to kids, but it can happen to adults as well. To my horror, they discussed how I apparently kicked someone during the whole ordeal, which I have no memory of. I am so sorry to whoever that was! So embarrassing. I really wish I knew what the whole scene looked like because I can only remember bits and pieces.
The rest of my recovery was a lot less exciting luckily. This time around I have to wear a big knee immobilizer, which is pretty annoying. I’m constantly overheating from it. It’ll help keep my leg straight, though, which is good. They put a wrap around my other leg that inflated and deflated periodically. It’s supposed to help prevent blood clots. I spent most of my time in the hospital on the vascular floor. It was fun getting to see the nurses again, many of whom remembered me.
the knee immbolizer
helps to prevent blood clots
The fun part about this surgery was that I got to meet another person with popliteal artery entrapment syndrome! I had found a support group on facebook for people with PAES months ago, which has been extremely helpful. Another girl and I realized that we were having surgery on the same day, both at the University of Maryland Medical Center, and with the same doctors What were the chances of that!?
The nurses called us the twins – same surgery on the same leg with matching gowns, knee immobilizers, drains, and crutches
This surgery involved both an orthopedics and vascular surgeon working together, which meant that it took a little longer to get a surgery date that both of them were available on. My guess is that they coordinated things so that they did two PAES surgeries on the same day.
This syndrome is very rare, and I know my doctor, who does more of these surgeries than most vascular surgeons, only does a few of these surgeries a year. The fact that both of us were having the surgery on the same day was pretty cool!
we crutched our way over to look out the window
We were messaging each other the weekend before the surgery. We also ended up being roommates in the hospital, which made things a lot more fun than last time. If the Internet didn’t exist then I wouldn’t know anybody else that has PAES. It was so nice getting to talk to someone else that really “got it” and knew what I was going through.
I’m back home now and things are going smoothly. No blood clots, so I don’t have to be on blood thinners. At the moment, most of the pain is coming from my back, not my leg. Trying to find a comfortable position at night is extremely difficult. The knee immobilizer keeps my legs straight, and my back is NOT happy about that. I’m not used to sleeping with my legs straight! The incision is healing nicely. Fingers crossed everything keeps going smoothly!
the muscle that was taken out during the surgery (part of the medial head of the gastrocnemius)