Medical Q&As

Aortic aneurysm - repair dangerous?

I have a relative who is 84 years old and has been diagnosed with an abdominal aortic aneurysm. She is to undergo surgery soon and I would like to know the risks involved in surgery of this nature at her age. Her general health is good and her heart is strong.

Rupture of an aneurysm of the abdominal aorta is a surgical emergency and carries a high mortality rate. Fortunately your relative has been diagnosed prior to rupture, which means that the aneurysm can be repaired electively. Elective repairs carry a very significantly reduced mortality rate and given the fact that your relative enjoys good health it is reasonable to expect a good result for her. There are two procedures available for repairing these aneurysms. There is the traditional surgical approach that involves opening the abdomen, removing the aneurysm and inserting a Dacron tube to replace the damaged portion of artery. More recently a new technique has been devised that is much less invasive. It involves inserting a stent graft into the aneurysm without opening the abdomen. A small incision is made just below the groin crease and the stent is inserted into the femoral artery and guided up through the arterial system until the site of the aneurysm is reached. The stent is then released and it expands and becomes anchored within the arterial wall. Essentially the stent is like a six-inch long tube within the sleeve of the abdominal aorta. This procedure means that the damaged wall of the aneurysm is no longer subjected to the great pressure that exists within the aorta, thereby eliminating the risk of rupture. The stent procedure results in quicker post-operative recovery because it does not involve opening the abdomen. It also results in a lower complication rate than the traditional operation however, there may be particular reasons why your relative’s surgeon would opt for a particular procedure in her case. You would need to clarify which procedure she is about to undergo in order to establish what risks she might be facing. Either way, as stated earlier, since she enjoys good health a good outcome can be confidently expected.