Overview of Thoracic Aortic Aneurysm Repair (Surgery)

Thoracic aortic aneurysm repair is an open-chest surgery that repairs a portion of the aorta, the main blood vessel that carries blood from your heart to your brain and vital organs. This surgery is used to treat an aortic aneurysm, or enlargement of the aorta. Doctors recommend surgery when the aortic aneurysm is over five centimeters wide in diameter.

The surgeon removes the enlarged portion of the aorta and replaces it with a synthetic tube, called a graft. The graft is made from a medical-grade cloth called Dacron. Dacron is often used to replace or repair blood vessels.

Depending on the location of the aneurysm, the surgeon may enter the chest through the breastbone or through the patient’s side. Doctors use the heart and lung machine to support the patient’s breathing and blood circulation during surgery.

This image shows thoracic aortic aneurysm repair. The surgeon has removed a portion of the aorta and replaced it with a graft.

Certain aneurysms are associated with other heart diseases, such as aortic valve disease or coronary artery disease. Depending on your condition, the doctor may combine your aortic surgery with other procedures, including aortic valve replacement or coronary artery bypass grafting.

The length of your recovery depends on whether your surgery was needed in an emergency, and on the extent of your surgery. In general, when surgeries are planned and elective, patients recover smoothly. The surgical graft is highly durable and you will not need any additional medicines because of it.

Some patients will be eligible for a less invasive surgery known as thoracic endovascular aortic repair (TEVAR). During TEVAR, the surgeon makes smaller incisions and places a stent-graft using a catheter.

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