A thoracic aortic aneurysm repair is a surgery to fix a problem in the aorta. The aorta is the largest blood vessel in the body. It starts at the heart and passes down through the chest and abdomen. The thoracic aorta is the part of the aorta in the chest. The aorta carries blood from the heart to blood vessels that supply the lower body.
This is a major surgery.
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Your doctor will review potential problems, like:
- Adverse reaction to anesthesia, such as lightheadedness, low blood pressure, and wheezing
- Soreness in throat
- Nausea and vomiting
- Excess bleeding
Irregular heart rhythm
- Kidney damage if blood flow is blocked
Paralysis if the spinal cord is damaged
Smoking and heavy alcohol use may increase the risk of problems.
Talk to your doctor about these risks before the procedure.
What to Expect
Prior to Procedure
Before surgery, your doctor may ask for:
Detailed pictures of your heart and vessels with:
- Tests of your lung function
Your doctor may also ask you to:
- Stop eating or drinking anything after midnight the night before your surgery.
Stop taking some medications up to 1 week before the procedure.
Let your doctor know about any medications or supplements you may be taking.
General anesthesia will be used. It will block pain and keep you asleep during the surgery.
Description of the Procedure
The surgeon will make an incision in your chest. Clamps will be placed on the aorta above and below the aneurysm. The damaged part of the aorta will be removed. A graft will replace the damaged part of the aorta. The graft is a type of man-made tube. It will be stitched into place. Blood will be able to flow through the graft. When the aorta is repaired, the clamps will be removed. Your doctor will look for any leaks.
If you need additional heart surgery, it may be done at this time. The chest incision will then be closed with stitches or staples
Immediately After Procedure
After the operation, you will be taken to the recovery room. Your heart, blood pressure and other vital signs will be monitored.
How Long Will It Take?
How Much Will It Hurt?
Anesthesia prevents pain during surgery. You will be given pain medication to help manage pain during recovery.
Average Hospital Stay
The usual length of stay is 7 days. If you have any problems, you may need to stay longer.
At the Hospital
The hospital staff may:
- Provide you with medication and nutrition through an IV.
- Ask you to take deep breaths and cough to prevent mucus from collecting in your lungs.
- Ask you to walk down the hall when you are able.
- Ask you to drink liquids until you can tolerate more solid foods.
When you return home, take these steps:
- Avoid smoking.
- Maintain a healthy weight.
- Follow a diet that is low in fat and includes fruits, vegetables, and whole grain foods.
- Participate in a rehabilitation program if advised to do so by your doctor.
- Be sure to follow your doctor’s instructions.
Call Your Doctor
Call your doctor if any of these occur:
- Irregular heartbeat
- Redness, swelling, increasing pain, excessive bleeding, or discharge at the incision site
- Signs of infection, including fever and chills
- Burning, pain, or problems when urinating
- Nausea or vomiting
- Unusual fatigue or depression
- New, unexplained symptoms
- Cough, shortness of breath, or chest pain
If you have an emergency, call for emergency medical services right away.