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

After aortic abdominal repair surgery, patients may expect careful monitoring with risks depending on whether the surgery is done outside the vessel in open abdominal repair, or inside the vessel with placement of a stent in endovascular repair.

Typically anyone who undergoes abdominal aortic repair will be monitored closedly in the intensive care unit (ICU) for evidence of infection, blood pressure control, problems with clotting or bleeding and concern for leaks or blocked vessels, particularly after stent placements. It will also be important that patients look at long-term lifestyle changes and quit smoking, eat well and do light regular exercise to improve their overall cardiovascular health.
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. After the procedure, you may be taken to the recovery room before being taken to the intensive care unit (ICU) to be closely monitored. Alternatively, you may be taken directly to the ICU from the operating room. You will be connected to monitors that will constantly display your electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG) tracing, blood pressure, other pressure readings, breathing rate, and your oxygen level.

You may have a tube in your throat so that breathing can be assisted with a ventilator (breathing machine) until you are stable enough to breathe on your own. As you continue to wake up from the anesthesia and start to breathe on your own, the breathing machine will be adjusted to allow you to take over more of the breathing. When you are awake enough to breathe completely on your own and you are able to cough, the breathing tube will be removed.

After the breathing tube is out, your nurse will assist you to cough and take deep breaths every two hours. This may be uncomfortable due to soreness, but it is extremely important that you do this in order to keep mucus from collecting in your lungs and possibly causing pneumonia. Your nurse will show you how to hug a pillow tightly against your chest while coughing to help ease the discomfort.

You may receive pain medication as needed, either by a nurse, through an epidural catheter, or by administering it yourself through a device connected to your intravenous line.

You may be on special intravenous (IV) medications to help your blood pressure and your heart, and to control any problems with bleeding. As your condition stabilizes, these medications will be gradually decreased and discontinued as your condition allows.

Once the breathing tube has been removed and your condition has stabilized, you may start to drink liquids. Your diet may be gradually advanced to more solid foods as you are able to tolerate them.

If you have a drainage tube in your stomach, you will not be able to drink or eat until the tube is removed. The drainage tube will be removed when your intestinal function has returned to normal, usually a few days after the procedure.

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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.