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What happens during an abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA) repair?

If your doctor recommends abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA) repair in the cath lab, here's what to expect:

  • You'll have general anesthesia, so you will feel no pain.
  • The doctor will make two small incisions in blood vessels in your groin.
  • A catheter will be inserted into each blood vessel and threaded to your aorta.
  • One catheter will deliver the stent graft. The second catheter will be used to help fit the graft into the aorta.

The doctor will remove the catheters and close the incisions. The stent graft remains to line the aorta.

Open repair of an abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA)—a bulging, weakened area in the wall of the aorta (the largest artery in the body)—involves an incision of the abdomen to directly visualize the aortic aneurysm. Abdominal aortic aneurysm repair requires a stay in a hospital. Procedures may vary depending on your condition and your physician's practices.

Generally, an abdominal aortic aneurysm repair follows this process:

  1. You will be asked to remove any jewelry or other objects that may interfere with the procedure.
  2. You will be asked to remove your clothing and will be given a gown to wear.
  3. You will be asked to empty your bladder prior to the procedure.
  4. An intravenous (IV) line will be started in your arm or hand. Additional catheters will be inserted in your neck and wrist to monitor the status of your heart and blood pressure, as well as for obtaining blood samples. Alternate sites for the additional catheters include the subclavian (under the collarbone) area and the groin.
  5. You will be positioned on the operating table, lying on your back.
  6. The anesthesiologist will continuously monitor your heart rate, blood pressure, breathing, and blood oxygen level during the surgery. Once you are sedated, a breathing tube will be inserted through your throat into your lungs and you will be connected to a ventilator, which will breathe for you during the surgery.
  7. A catheter will be inserted into your bladder to drain urine.
  8. The skin over the surgical site will be cleansed with an antiseptic solution.
  9. Once all the tubes and monitors are in place, the physician will make an incision (cut) down the center of the abdomen from immediately below the breastbone to below the navel or across the abdomen from underneath the left arm across to the center of the abdomen and down to below the navel.
  10. The physician will place a clamp on the aorta above and below the site of the aneurysm. This will temporarily interrupt the flow of blood.
  11. The physician will cut open the aneurysm sac and suture into place a long tube called the graft. This will connect both ends of the aorta together.
  12. The clamps will be removed and the physician will wrap the wall of the aneurysm around the graft, suturing the aorta back together.

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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.