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 until you see your doctor.
- 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.
- Don't push yourself too hard.
- Increase how much you exercise slowly.
Your doctor 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 doctor 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 doctor 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 doctor 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 will not cure the cause of your aneurysm. Your arteries may become widened again, or you may have this problem in another artery. You will need to make lifestyle changes to try to prevent the problem from coming back.
- Eat a heart-healthy diet.
- Stop smoking, if you smoke.
- Reduce stress to help lower your chances of having a blocked artery again.
Your health care provider may give you medicine to help lower your cholesterol. If you are given medicines for blood pressure or diabetes, take them as your doctor has asked you to.
When to call the doctor
Call your doctor or nurse 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
- Your belly hurts or feels distended
- You have blood in your stool
- You are not able to move your legs
Also call your doctor or nurse 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
AAA - open - discharge; Repair - aortic aneurysm - open - discharge
De Bruin JL, Baas AF, Buth J, Prinssen M, Verhoeven EL, Cuypers PW, van Sambeek MR, Balm R, Grobbee DE, Blankensteijn JD; DREAM Study Group. Long-term outcome of open or endovascular repair of abdominal aortic aneurysm. N Engl J Med. 2010 May 20;362(20):1881-1889.
Gloviczki P, Ricotta JJ II. Aneurysmal vascular disease. In: Townsend CM, Beauchamp RD, Evers BM, Mattox KL, eds. Sabiston Textbook of Surgery. 18th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2008:chap 65.
Greenhalgh RM, Powell JT. Endovascular repair of abdominal aortic aneurysm. N Engl J Med. 2008 Jan 31;358(5):494-501.
Update Date 7/30/2014
Updated by: Deepak Sudheendra, MD, Assistant Professor of Interventional Radiology & Surgery, Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.