Identifying potentially avoidable femoral to popliteal expanded polytetrafluoroethylene bypass for claudication using cross-site blinded peer review

J Vasc Surg. 2023 Feb;77(2):490-496.e8. doi: 10.1016/j.jvs.2022.09.005. Epub 2022 Sep 13.


Objective: The surgical treatment of claudication can be associated with significant morbidity and costs. There are growing concerns that some patients proceed to interventions without first attempting evidence-based nonoperative management. We used a direct, cross-site, blinded expert review to evaluate the appropriateness of the surgical treatment of claudication.

Methods: We enlisted practicing vascular surgeons to perform retrospective clinical assessments of lower extremity bypass procedures in a statewide clinical registry. Cases were limited to elective, open, infrainguinal bypasses performed for claudication using prosthetic grafts. Reviewing surgeons were randomly assigned 10 cases from a sample of 139 anonymized bypass operations and instructed to evaluate procedural appropriateness based on their expert opinion and evidence-based guidelines for preoperative treatment, namely, antiplatelet, statin, cilostazol, exercise, and smoking cessation therapy as documented in the medical record. Ninety-day episode payments were estimated from a distinct but similar cohort of patients undergoing lower extremity bypass for claudication.

Results: Of 325 total reviews, surgeons stated they would not have recommended bypass in 134 reviews (41%) and deemed bypass inappropriate in 122 reviews (38%). The most common reason for inappropriateness was lack of preoperative medical and lifestyle therapy, which was present in 63% of reviews where bypass was deemed appropriate and 39% of reviews where bypass was deemed inappropriate (P < .001). Surgeons stated they would have recommended additional preoperative therapy in 65% of reviews where bypass was deemed inappropriate and 35% of reviews where bypass was deemed appropriate (P < .001). The mean total episode payments in a similar cohort of 1458 patients undergoing elective open lower extremity bypass for claudication were $31,301 ± $21,219. Extrapolating to the 325 reviews, the 134 reviews in which surgeons would not have recommended bypass were associated with potentially avoidable estimated total payments of $4,194,334, and the 122 reviews in which bypass was deemed inappropriate were associated with potentially avoidable estimated total payments of $3,818,722.

Conclusions: In this cross-site expert peer review study, 40% of lower extremity bypasses were deemed premature and, therefore, potentially avoidable, primarily owing to a lack of medical and lifestyle management before surgery. Reviews deemed inappropriate were associated with approximately $4 million in potentially avoidable costs. This approach could inform performance feedback among surgeons to help align clinical practice with evidence-based recommendations for the treatment of claudication.

Keywords: Bypass; Peripheral arterial disease; Review; Surgery; Surgical appropriateness.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Intermittent Claudication / diagnosis
  • Intermittent Claudication / surgery
  • Lower Extremity / blood supply
  • Peripheral Arterial Disease* / surgery
  • Polytetrafluoroethylene
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Polytetrafluoroethylene