Aortic Aneurysm Repair & Removal

The aorta is the largest artery in the body. It begins at the heart and runs through the chest and abdomen. Aortic repair surgery creates a support for weakened aorta walls. It helps to:

  • Prevent an aneurysm from rupturing/bursting, which causes severe, life-threatening bleeding
  • Remove a ruptured aneurysm and repair the damaged aorta

How to Detect and Treat Aneurysms

When the aortic wall is disrupted, a degenerative process can lead to an aortic aneurysm. W. Darrin Clouse, MD, discusses the causes, symptoms and treatment of aortic aneurysms. View aortic transcript.

What to Expect During Repair/Removal Surgery

Prior to Procedure

At UVA, we can diagnose you by using these tests:

  • Physical exam
  • Blood tests
  • Detailed pictures of your body:
    • X-rays
    • Ultrasound
    • CT scan
    • MRI scan
  • Cardiac catheterization
  • Electrocardiogram

Description of Repair/Removal Surgery

Your surgeon makes an incision over the area of the aneurysm, either in the abdomen or chest. He or she then clamps the aorta off above and below the aneurysm and opens and cleans the aneurysm. Your surgeon then sews a graft into place to reconnect the two ends of the aorta. Aneurysm tissue wraps around the outside of the graft.

Once the graft is properly in place, the clamps are released, which allows blood flow to resume through the aorta.

Blood flow may need to pass through a heart-lung machine temporarily.            

Postoperative Care

At the Hospital

The average hospital stay after surgery is 4-7 days. You'll stay in the ICU and then be moved to a regular hospital room.

For the first few days, you'll be hooked up to monitors to track your heart rate, breathing, blood pressure and blood oxygen levels. Your doctor may also order blood tests, chest X-rays, an EKG and an ultrasound of the repaired area of the aorta.

You may have some tubes in place, including:

  • IV
  • Urinary catheter
  • Arterial catheter
  • Central venous catheter
  • Epidural catheter
  • Nasogastric tube

Your doctor may ask you to use an incentive spirometer, breathe deeply and cough frequently to help improve lung function. Compression stockings can also help decrease the possibility of blood clots in your legs.

At Home

Monitor atherosclerosis and high blood pressure with medication and a healthy lifestyle. Recovery takes about six weeks. After surgery, you may find you have more strength and less swelling in your legs.

Surgical Complications

Possible surgery complications may include:

  • Problems from general anesthesia, such as lightheadedness, low blood pressure and wheezing
  • Infection
  • Bleeding
  • Blood clots
  • Damage to organs or tissue
  • Death

Factors that may increase the risk of complications include:

  • Smoking
  • Emergency surgery due to a burst aneurysm
  • Heart disease
  • Previous episodes of transient ischemic attacks or strokes
  • Lung disease
  • Debilitation due to cancer
  • Diabetes
  • Obesity

Content was created using EBSCO’s Health Library. Edits to original content made by Rector and Visitors of the University of Virginia. This information is not a substitute for professional medical advice.