Aortic Aneurysm Surgery

Having an aortic aneurysm doesn’t always mean you'll need surgery for it. Small aortic aneurysms without symptoms can generally be watched and don't require treatment.

But if the aneurysm is large, is quickly getting bigger, or is causing symptoms, it increases the risk of tearing your aorta. If that happens, it can be a life-threatening emergency.

Treatment for aortic aneurysms prevents a tear in your aorta (also called a rupture). Traditionally, aortic aneurysm treatment involves open surgery. It’s called an open surgery because we get to your aorta through a cut in your chest or abdomen.

UVA Health's aortic care experts have extensive experience treating aortic aneurysms with surgery and other procedures. We’ve received special recognition for artery, valve, and bypass surgery procedures.

Open Aortic Aneurysm Surgery: What to Expect

This surgery repairs your aortic aneurysm using a special tube made of fabric and metal called a stent-graft. The tube replaces the aortic aneurysm and functions as the  aorta. It relieves pressure on the aneurysm to keep it from rupturing.

We put the tube in place by:

  • Starting with a cut (incision) on your chest or abdomen (depending on the location of the aneurysm)
  • Opening the chest or abdomen to get to the aorta
  • Putting clamps on the aorta above and below the aneurysm to stop blood flow temporarily
  • Opening the section of aorta with the aneurysm
  • Attaching the graft to the healthy part of the aorta
  • Restarting blood flow
  • Closing your chest or abdomen

Aortic Aneurysm Surgery Recovery

Right after aortic aneurysm surgery, you’ll stay on the breathing machine for a short time. We’ll remove you from the machine as soon as possible.

You’ll spend a few days in the hospital to recover. Usually, it’s about a week. The first couple of days will be in the intensive care unit (ICU). There we can watch you closely in case you have any complications from the surgery.

Complications after aneurysm surgery may include:

  • Bleeding
  • Heart attack
  • Irregular heartbeats
  • Graft infection
  • Stroke
  • Spinal cord injury
  • Kidney damage

We’ll get you on a plan for managing your pain at the hospital and at home. Most people return to their usual activities after four to six weeks.

Why Choose an Open Surgery?

We do offer other ways of treating aortic aneurysms. These procedures usually involve much smaller cuts and less recovery time. But not everyone is a good candidate for these procedures.

Your surgeon will partner with you to review your conditions, risks, and options for an aortic aneurysms repair to settle on the right treatment plan for you.