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What is involved in thoracic aortic aneurysm surgery?

Thoracic aortic aneurysm surgery would ideally be planned and scheduled with a cardiothoracic surgeon if a thoracic aortic aneurysm is detected before it tears or ruptures. The cardiothoracic surgeon likely will recommend replacement or stenting of the affected portion of the aorta with an artificial graft.

If the aneurysm is close to the aortic valve, or an ascending aortic aneurysm (located in the part of the aorta that exits the heart then travels up toward the neck), the valve may also have to be repaired or replaced through an incision on the front of the chest wall. This incision is called a median sternotomy and extends down the front of the chest, through the breastbone or sternum, which enables the cardiothoracic surgeon to see the heart and aorta.

Surgery on the aortic arch (the curve in the aorta after it leaves the heart and travels up toward the neck, then down into the chest toward the abdomen) is also usually done from an incision on the front of the chest wall. If the aneurysm involves the descending thoracic aorta (the part of the aorta after the curve in the neck which travels down toward the abdomen), an incision on the left side of the ribcage may be required.

This content originally appeared online in "The Patient Guide to Heart, Lung, and Esophageal Surgery" from the Society of Thoracic Surgery.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.