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Aneurysmectomy is a surgical procedure performed to repair a weak area in the aorta. The aorta is the largest artery in the body and the main blood vessel leading away from the heart.
The purpose of aneurysmectomy is to repair an aortic aneurysm that is likely to rupture if left in place. Aneurysmectomy is indicated for an aortic aneurysm that grows to at least 2 in (5 cm) or for an aortic aneurysm of any size that is symptomatic, tender, or enlarging rapidly.
Aneurysmectomy may not be appropriate for patients with severely debilitating diseases such as cancer, emphysema, and heart failure.
An aortic aneurysm is a bulge in the wall of the aorta that is usually due to arteriosclerosis or atherosclerosis. People who are 50-80 years old are most likely to develop an aortic aneurysm, with men four times more likely to develop one than women.
An aortic aneurysm develops and grows slowly. It rarely produces symptoms and is usually only diagnosed by accident during a routine physical exam or on an x ray or ultrasound done for another reason. As the aneurysm grows larger, the risk of bursting with no warning, which causes catastrophic bleeding, rises. A ruptured aortic aneurysm can cause sudden loss of a fatal amount of blood within minutes or it can leak in a series of small bleeds that lead within hours or days to massive bleeding. A leaking aortic aneurysm that is not treated is always fatal.
Aneurysmectomy is performed to repair the two most common types of aortic aneurysms: abdominal aortic aneurysms that occur in the abdomen below the kidneys, and thoracic aortic aneurysms that occur in the chest. It is major surgery performed in a hospital under general anesthesia and involves removing debris and then implanting a flexible tube (graft) to replace the enlarged artery. Aneurysmectomy for an aneurysm of the ascending aorta (the first part of the aorta that travels upward from the heart) requires the use of a heart-lung machine that temporarily stops the heart while the aneurysm is repaired. Aneurysmectomy requires a one-week hospital stay; the recovery period is five weeks.
During surgery, the site of the aneurysm (either the abdomen or the chest) is opened with an incision to expose the aneurysm. The aorta is clamped above and below the aneurysm to stop the flow of blood. Then, an incision is made in the aneurysm. An artificial Dacron tube is sewn in place above and below the opened aneurysm, but the aneurysm is not removed. Plaque or clotted blood are cleaned from the diseased tissue. The clamps are removed and blood flow is re-established through the graft. The wall of the aneurysm is wrapped around the graft to protect it and the skin of the abdomen or chest is sewn up.
Aneurysmectomy can be performed as elective or emergency surgery. Elective aneurysmectomy takes about an hour and is far safer than emergency aneurysmectomy, with a mortality rate of 3-5% for elective abdominal aneurysmectomy and 5-10% for elective thoracic aneurysmectomy. When an aneurysm ruptures, 62% of patients die before they reach the hospital. Of those who make it into emergency aneurysmectromy, 50% die. After a successful aneurysmectomy, the patient has nearly the same life expectancy as other people of the same age.
Before elective aneurysmectomy, blood studies, a chest x ray, cardiac catherization, electrocardiogram (ECG), and ultrasound are performed.
After aneurysmectomy, the patient is monitored in an Intensive Care Unit for the first 24–48 hours. Followup tests include ECG, chest x ray, and ultrasound.
Elective aneurysmectomy has a 5-10% rate of complications, such as bleeding, kidney failure, respiratory complications, heart attack, stroke, infection, limb loss, bowel ischemia, and impotence. These complications are many times more common in emergency aneurysmectomy.
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