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Vascular Surgery

Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm Surgery

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An aneurysm is a weakened part of a blood vessel that expands like a balloon. An abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA) is an aneurysm in the aorta, the main artery in the body, which carries oxygen-rich blood from the heart to the rest of the body. When part of the aorta weakens and expands, it may eventually burst. When your doctor thinks the chances of a rupture outweigh the risks of surgery, you may choose to undergo surgery to replace the weakened aortic wall with a graft, or tube.

The Surgery

Depending on your health, the surgeon will perform one of two types of surgery. In open surgery, the doctor makes an incision in the abdomen, opens the aneurysm, and sews the graft, or tube, to the aorta. The wall of the aorta is wrapped around the graft, and the wall is sewn up. The incision is closed with stitches or staples.

Instead of open surgery, the surgeon may perform a less invasive endovascular procedure. One or two small incisions are made near the groin. A catheter (a thin, flexible tube) is threaded through an artery at each incision. A graft is placed inside each catheter, and the surgeon guides it toward the damaged part of the aorta while watching on a video monitor to place the graft in the best position. The graft is expanded so blood can flow through it. The surgeon attaches the graft inside the artery above and below the aneurysm and holds it in place with stents (metal springs), hooks, or pins. The catheter is removed and the incision sites are closed with stitches or staples.

For important information on risks of and preparation for the surgery, see Before Vascular Surgery.

For post-operative information, see After Vascular Surgery.

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