Your Guide to Treating Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm (Video)

How surgery can repair this dangerous ‘bulge’ in artery

thoracic aorta and abdominal aortic aneurysm

The aorta is the most important artery in your circulatory system, transporting oxygen-rich blood from the heart out to all of the blood vessels of your body.

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But the part of this artery just below the kidneys that carries blood to the lower extremities — what we call the abdominal aorta — is the most susceptible to aneurysms. An aneurysm is a bulge or bubble that develops in the artery.

As the aortic walls in the area of the aneurysm get thinner and weaker, the aorta can rupture and cause massive bleeding or even death.

In many cases, we treat an abdominal aortic aneurysm with an open surgery in the abdomen.

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This whiteboard video helps illustrate how we clamp the aorta on either side of the aneurysm to block the blood flow, open it up and replace it with an artificial polyester tube called a surgical graft.

We then stitch the healthy parts of the artery to the artificial tube, stitch the aorta back up around the graft and restore blood flow to the lower extremities.

This surgery usually takes about two hours and requires people to be hospitalized for five to seven days. Within about a month, most patients can go back to normal activities.

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Daniel Clair, MD

Daniel Clair, MD, is Chairman of the Department of Vascular Surgery at Cleveland Clinic. In 2007, Dr. Clair was named one of America’s Top Doctors.