Open abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA) repair is surgery to fix a widened part in your aorta. This is called an aneurysm. The aorta is the large artery that carries blood to your belly (abdomen), pelvis, and legs.
When You're in the Hospital
You had open aortic aneurysm surgery to repair an aneurysm (a widened part) in your aorta, the large artery that carries blood to your belly (abdomen), pelvis, and legs.
You have a long incision (cut) either in the middle of your belly or on the left side of your belly. Your surgeon repaired your aorta through this incision. After spending 1 to 3 days in the intensive care unit (ICU), you spent more time recovering in a regular hospital room.
What to Expect at Home
Plan to have someone drive you home from the hospital. DO NOT drive yourself home.
You should be able to do most of your regular activities in 4 to 8 weeks. Before that:
- DO NOT lift anything heavier than 10 to 15 pounds (5 to 7 kg) until you see your health care provider.
- Avoid all strenuous activity, including heavy exercising, weightlifting, and other activities that make you breathe hard or strain.
- Short walks and using stairs are OK.
- Light housework is OK.
- DO NOT push yourself too hard.
- Increase how much you exercise slowly.
Your provider will prescribe pain medicines for you to use at home. If you are taking pain pills 3 or 4 times a day, try taking them at the same times each day for 3 to 4 days. They may be more effective this way.
Get up and move around if you are having some pain in your belly. This may ease your pain.
Press a pillow over your incision when you cough or sneeze to ease discomfort and protect your incision.
Make sure your home is safe as you are recovering.
Change the dressing over your surgical wound once a day, or sooner if it becomes soiled. Your provider will tell you when you do not need to keep your wound covered. Keep the wound area clean. You may wash it with mild soap and water if your provider says you can.
You may remove the wound dressings and take showers if sutures, staples, or glue were used to close your skin, or if your provider says you can.
If tape strips (Steri-strips) were used to close your incision, cover the incision with plastic wrap before showering for the first week. DO NOT try to wash off the Steri-strips or glue.
DO NOT soak in a bathtub or hot tub, or go swimming, until your doctor tells you it is OK.
Surgery does not cure the underlying problem with your blood vessels. Other blood vessels could be affected in the future, so lifestyle changes and medical management are important:
- Eat a heart-healthy diet.
- Get regular exercise.
- Stop smoking (if you smoke).
- Take the medicines your provider has prescribed as directed. These may include medicines to lower cholesterol, control blood pressure, and treat diabetes.
When to Call the Doctor
Call your provider if:
- You have pain in your belly or back that does not go away or is very bad.
- Your legs are swelling.
- You have chest pain or shortness of breath that does not go away with rest.
- You experience dizziness, fainting, or you are very tired.
- You are coughing up blood or yellow or green mucus.
- You have chills or a fever over 100.5°F (38°C).
- Your belly hurts or feels distended.
- You have blood in your stool or develop bloody diarrhea.
- You are not able to move your legs.
Also call your provider if there are changes in your surgical incision, such as:
- The edges are pulling apart.
- You have green or yellow drainage.
- You have more redness, pain, warmth, or swelling.
- Your bandage is soaked with blood or clear fluid.
AAA - open - discharge; Repair - aortic aneurysm - open - discharge
Lancaster RT, Cambria RP. Open repair of abdominal aortic aneurysms. In: Cameron JL, Cameron AM, eds. Current Surgical Therapy. 12th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2017:899-907.
Tracci MC, Cherry KJ. The aorta. In: Townsend CM Jr, Beauchamp RD, Evers BM, Mattox KL, eds. Sabiston Textbook of Surgery. 20th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2017:chap 61.
Review Date 4/5/2018
Updated by: Michael Sobel, MD, Professor of Vascular Surgery, University of Washington, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.