Your aorta is the largest artery that carries oxygen-rich blood from the heart to the rest of the body. If a weak spot develops in the aortic wall, it can balloon out (called an aneurysm), leak and possibly rupture, risking massive internal bleeding.
Your doctor will use tests such as cardiac ultrasound, CT and MRI or aortogram to find out if your aneurysm is large or expanding. If so, you and your doctor may discuss these options for abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA) repair:
- Open AAA Repair — This traditional surgical approach involves a large incision in the chest or abdomen. The surgeon removes the bulging part of the aorta and puts an artificial graft in its place, reattaching the remaining aortic end pieces to the graft so that blood flows through it.
- Endovascular AAA Repair — With this minimally invasive technique, your surgeon uses catheters to place a stent graft inside the aneurysm and connect the graft to the aortic blood vessels. Blood flows through the stent, bypassing the weak spot and preventing its rupture. Another method, called endovascular embolization, uses a catheter to deliver substances that seal off the weakened section of the blood vessel.
Typically, these techniques involve general anesthesia and take a few hours. Recovery time varies, but you’ll likely spend a few days in the hospital and experience soreness and fatigue for a few weeks. You’ll also need continued monitoring to ensure that the graft is working.