Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm Surgery

Surgery Overview

Open surgery is done to repair an abdominal aortic aneurysm. It is called an open surgery because the abdomen is opened so the doctor can see and work on the aorta.

Your aorta is a large artery that carries blood from your heart through your belly to the rest of your body.

To do the surgery, the doctor makes a large cut (incision) in your belly or side. The doctor replaces the weak and bulging section of the aorta with a man-made tube (called a graft). General anesthesia is used for this surgery.

You may spend several days in the hospital. You will need to take it easy for at least 4 to 6 weeks at home.

What To Expect

You will stay in the hospital for a few days to recover.

You can expect the cut (incision) to be sore for a few weeks. You will feel more tired than usual for several weeks after surgery. You may be able to do many of your usual activities after 4 to 6 weeks. But you will probably need 2 to 3 months to fully recover.

You will have follow-up visits with your doctor to check on your recovery. Then, you will likely have annual checkups. You might have a test, such as a CT scan or ultrasound, every few years to check your repaired aorta.

Be sure to tell your dentist and doctors that you have the graft in your aorta. This is important because you may need to take antibiotics before certain procedures to prevent an infection.

Why It Is Done

Repairing an aortic aneurysm is often recommended if the aneurysm is at risk of bursting open (rupturing). Aortic aneurysms that are large, that cause symptoms, or that quickly get bigger are considered at risk of rupturing.

Your doctor will work with you to decide which type of repair surgery—open or endovascular—is right for you. Your doctor will check:

  • The shape and location of your aneurysm.
  • Your age and overall health, to make sure that you are healthy enough for a surgery.
  • If you are able and willing to have the yearly tests that are needed after endovascular repair. Testing is done less often after an open repair.

How Well It Works

When an aortic aneurysm is at risk of rupturing, or bursting open, the benefits of repairing the aneurysm can outweigh the risks. Repairing the aneurysm lowers the risk of rupture. And the repair can help a person live longer. Repairing a smaller aneurysm, which doesn't have as high a risk of rupture, does not help a person live longer. footnote 1

Risks

Most people who have open repair surgery recover well. But this surgery has serious risks during surgery and soon after surgery.

About 5 out of 100 people die during surgery or within 30 days. footnote 2 This risk may depend on your health before surgery and where the aneurysm is located.

About 9 to 17 out of 100 people have complications during the surgery or within 30 days. footnote 3 These complications include problems with the heart, kidneys, or lungs.

Complications after the surgery include bleeding, infection, colon problems, and problems with the repaired aneurysm.

References

Citations

  1. Filardo G, et al. (2015). Surgery for small asymptomatic abdominal aortic aneurysms. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, (2). DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD001835.pub4. Accessed April 9, 2020.
  2. Lederle FA, et al. (2007). Systematic review: Repair of unruptured abdominal aortic aneurysm. Annals of Internal Medicine, 146(10): 735-41. DOI: 10.7326/0003-4819-146-10-200705150-00007. Accessed December 22, 2016 .
  3. Schermerhorn ML, et al. (2008). Endovascular vs. open repair of adominal aortic aneurysms in the Medicare population. New England Journal of Medicine, 358(5): 464–474.

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