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Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm Repair Surgery: Before Your Surgery

What is an abdominal aortic aneurysm repair?

Open surgery is done to repair an abdominal aortic aneurysm. It is called an open surgery because the abdomen is opened so the doctor can see and work on the aorta.

Your aorta is a large artery that carries blood from your heart through your belly to the rest of your body.

To do the surgery, the doctor makes a large cut (incision) in your belly or side. The doctor replaces the weak and bulging section of the aorta with a man-made tube (called a graft). General anesthesia is used for this surgery.

You may spend several days in the hospital. You will need to take it easy for at least 4 to 6 weeks at home.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

How do you prepare for surgery?

Surgery can be stressful. This information will help you understand what you can expect. And it will help you safely prepare for surgery.

Preparing for surgery

  • Be sure you have someone to take you home. Anesthesia and pain medicine will make it unsafe for you to drive or get home on your own.
  • Understand exactly what surgery is planned, along with the risks, benefits, and other options.
  • Tell your doctor ALL the medicines and natural health products you take. Some may increase the risk of problems during your surgery. Your doctor will tell you if you should stop taking any of them before the surgery and how soon to do it.
  • If you take aspirin or some other blood thinner, ask your doctor if you should stop taking it before your surgery. Make sure that you understand exactly what your doctor wants you to do. These medicines increase the risk of bleeding.
  • Make sure your doctor and the hospital have a copy of your advance care plan. If you don't have one, you may want to prepare one. It lets others know your health care wishes. It's a good thing to have before any type of surgery or procedure.

What happens on the day of surgery?

  • Follow the instructions exactly about when to stop eating and drinking. If you don't, your surgery may be cancelled. If your doctor told you to take your medicines on the day of surgery, take them with only a sip of water.
  • Take a bath or shower before you come in for your surgery. Do not apply lotions, perfumes, deodorants, or nail polish.
  • Do not shave the surgical site yourself.
  • Take off all jewellery and piercings. And take out contact lenses, if you wear them.

At the hospital or surgery centre

  • Bring a picture ID.
  • The area for surgery is often marked to make sure there are no errors.
  • You may get an epidural catheter, which is a tiny tube that puts pain medicine into the area in your back around your spinal cord. The epidural will prevent pain after surgery.
  • You will be kept comfortable and safe by your anesthesia provider. You will be asleep during the surgery.
  • The surgery will take about 2 to 3 hours.
  • You will be encouraged to get out of bed the day after surgery. You will have lots of help doing this.
  • Your doctor will have you do breathing exercises. These help to keep your lungs healthy.

When should you call for help?

Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • You passed out (lost consciousness).
  • You have severe trouble breathing.
  • You have sudden chest pain and shortness of breath, or you cough up blood or foamy, pink mucus.
  • You have severe pain in your belly.
  • You have chest pain or pressure. This may occur with:
    • Sweating.
    • Shortness of breath.
    • Nausea or vomiting.
    • Pain that spreads from the chest to the neck, jaw, or one or both shoulders or arms.
    • Dizziness or light-headedness.
    • A fast or uneven pulse.
    After calling 911, chew 1 adult-strength aspirin. Wait for an ambulance. Do not try to drive yourself.

Call your doctor or nurse call line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You have new or increased shortness of breath.
  • You are dizzy or light-headed, or you feel like you may faint.
  • You are sick to your stomach or cannot keep fluids down.
  • You have pain that does not get better after you take pain medicine.
  • You have a fever over 38°C.
  • You have loose stitches, or your incision comes open.
  • Bright red blood has soaked through the bandage over your incision.
  • You have signs of infection, such as:
    • Increased pain, swelling, warmth, or redness.
    • Red streaks leading from the incision.
    • Pus draining from the incision.
    • Swollen lymph nodes in your neck, armpits, or groin.
    • A fever.
  • You have signs of a blood clot, such as:
    • Pain in your calf, back of the knee, thigh, or groin.
    • Redness and swelling in your leg or groin.

Watch closely for any changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse call line if:

  • You have sudden weight gain, such as 1.3 kilograms or more in 2 to 3 days.
  • You have increased swelling in your legs, ankles, or feet.
  • You have any concerns about your incision.

Where can you learn more?

Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

Enter I016 in the search box to learn more about "Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm Repair Surgery: Before Your Surgery".

Care instructions adapted under license by your healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.