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Open Repair of Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Jan 5, 2023.

What do I need to know about open repair of an abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA)?

Open repair is surgery to remove an AAA. The AAA will be replaced with a graft. A graft is a tube made of plastic or other material. After surgery, blood will flow through the graft instead of the aneurysm. This prevents aneurysm leak or rupture.

How do I prepare for open repair of an AAA?

  • You may need blood tests or a CT angiography scan before your surgery. These tests will help your healthcare provider plan for your surgery. Talk to your healthcare provider about these or other tests you may need. Arrange for someone to stay with you for at least a week after you leave the hospital. This person can help you around the house and drive you to appointments. He or she can also watch for problems, such as bleeding or wound infection.
  • Your healthcare provider will talk to you about how to prepare for surgery. He or she may tell you not to eat or drink anything after midnight on the day of surgery. The provider will tell you what medicines to take or not take on the day of surgery. You may need to stop taking your blood thinner several days before surgery. You may be given an antibiotic and contrast liquid during surgery. Tell a healthcare provider if you have ever had an allergic reaction to antibiotics or contrast liquid.

What will happen during open repair of an AAA?

  • You will be given general anesthesia to keep you asleep and free from pain during surgery. Your healthcare provider will make an incision in your abdomen. The incision may go up to your chest. Your healthcare provider will clamp your abdominal aorta to stop the blood flow through your aneurysm.
  • Your healthcare provider will remove your aneurysm. A graft will be placed where your aneurysm was removed. It will be attached to your abdominal aorta with stitches. Your healthcare provider will remove the clamps. Blood will flow again through your abdominal aorta. Your incision may be left open to help it heal. A vacuum may be applied to remove blood and fluid. Instead, your incision may be closed with stitches, staples, medical glue, or Steri-strips™. A bandage will be placed over your incision if it is closed.

What will happen after open repair of an AAA?

  • Healthcare providers will monitor your blood pressure, heartbeat, oxygen levels, and breathing. They will also check pulses in your legs. This will help healthcare providers check blood flow through your abdominal aorta.
  • You may have a Foley catheter (tube) in your bladder to drain your urine. You may also have a nasogastric tube (NGT). An NGT is placed through your nose and into your stomach. It is usually attached to a suction machine that removes fluid and air from your stomach. The Foley and NGT will be removed in a few days. You will be given clear liquids for 1 to 2 days after surgery.
  • You may spend 1 week or more in the hospital. You may have pain in your abdomen. You may feel weak and tired after surgery. It may take 1 month or more to recover from surgery.
  • If your incision was left open, you will need a second surgery to close it. If you have certain health conditions or lose a lot of blood during surgery, you may need other treatments. Examples include blood transfusions or a ventilator to help you breathe. These treatments will help your body heal from surgery.

What are the risks of open repair of an AAA?

You may bleed more than expected or get an infection. You may get a blood clot in your leg. Blood vessels and other organs in your abdomen may be damaged. The contrast liquid may cause kidney damage or an allergic reaction. Clamping during surgery may also damage to your kidneys. Kidney damage may be permanent.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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