Aortic Aneurysm Open Surgery

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Having an aortic aneurysm doesn’t always mean you'll need surgery. Small aortic aneurysms without symptoms can be watched and don't need treatment. But if your aneurysm gets bigger or causes symptoms, it can lead to a tear in your aorta (called a rupture). If that happens, it can be a life-threatening emergency.

Treating aortic aneurysms prevents a ruptured aneurysm. Traditionally, aortic aneurysm have been treated with open surgery (also sometimes called aortic aneurysm repair). Aortic aneurysm open heart surgery means we get to your aorta through a cut in your chest or abdomen.

Aortic Aneurysm Repair Experts at UVA Health

Our aortic aneurysm team makes sure you get the attention you deserve. That means making appointments so that you see as many specialists as you can in one day. Our high-tech equipment takes pictures of your heart, arteries, and veins so we can figure out the best treatment for your aneurysm. And, we can make a lifestyle plan that's right for you.

UVA Health's aortic care experts have deep experience treating aortic aneurysms with surgery and other procedures. We’ve gotten special recognition for our artery, valve, and bypass surgery procedures. In fact, Becker’s Hospital Review named UVA Health’s Heart & Vascular Center to its 2023 list of 100 hospitals and health systems with great heart programs.

Open Aortic Aneurysm Surgery: What to Expect

Open aortic aneurysm surgery repairs your aortic aneurysm with a graft. The graft is a tube made out of plastic or other material. The graft replaces the part of your aorta with the aneurysm. 

We put the graft in place by:

  • Starting with a cut (incision) on your chest or abdomen (depending on where the aneurysm is found)
  • Opening the incision to get to the aorta
  • Putting clamps on the aorta above and below the aneurysm to stop blood flow 
  • 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

Why Choose Open Aortic Aneurysm 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. We'll partner with you to go over your conditions, risks, and options for an aortic aneurysm repair. Then we'll settle on the right treatment plan for you.

Open Aortic Aneurysm Repair: Always an Option

Open surgery for aortic aneurysm repair is a tried-and-true treatment option. But it does come with some risks. W. Darrin Clouse, MD, explains how UVA Health’s Aortic Center is one of the best places to get open aortic aneurysm surgery. See the open aortic aneurysm repair transcript.

Aortic Aneurysm Surgery Recovery

Right after aortic aneurysm surgery, you’ll stay on the breathing machine for a short time. We’ll take you off of 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 few days will be in the intensive care unit (ICU). There, we can watch you closely in case of any issues from the surgery, like:

  • 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 get back to their usual activities after 4–6 weeks.