The human body is a network of veins, arteries, and capillaries moving blood to and from the heart. The blood transports oxygen from the lungs throughout the body. It also brings back carbon dioxide given off by the body’s cells back to the lungs in order for it to be expelled.
Over time, these pathways become damaged either by weakening, which allows bleeding within the body, or thickening, which causes clots. In some cases, the vessels can create a balloon-like bulge filled with blood, known as an aneurysm. In most cases, vascular surgery can correct the problem.
Unless treated, an aneurysm can rupture. This rupturing of the artery leads to bleeding and subsequently to hypovolemic shock. This can cause death. In some cases, aneurysms can also form a clot, restricting flow of blood to the area.
Vascular Surgery Procedure
When having vascular surgery to repair this defect, your doctor will give you an anesthetic to eliminate your pain during the procedure. While you are unconscious, he or she will then make an incision in the area where the arterial weakness is located.
Once the site is exposed, your physician will clamp the artery above the aneurysm. This stops blood from entering the area. The next step is to open the actual sack and remove any clotted blood or plaque deposits that could be attributing to the buildup.
If possible, your doctor will remove the damaged portion of the artery. If the area is small, he or she may replace it with a vein from your leg. However, if the artery is much larger, for example, your aorta, then a synthetic graft will replace the damaged area.
In other cases, your doctor may not remove the aneurysm. Instead, he or she will insert a graft that will decrease the overall size of the arterial wall while giving it added support. Adding the graft occurs after the removal of any clots or plaque.
There are some areas where your surgeon cannot operate directly on the aneurysm – the head, for example. In this instance, he or she will insert clips or small clamps to prevent blood from entering the area. This helps to relieve the pressure. If the bulge is in an inoperable location, your doctor can still try to fill it with tiny metal or plastic coils. To do this, a long, thin tube called a catheter threads through your vessels to the aneurysm site. The catheter deposits the coils to block blood flow and relieve the pressure.
After Vascular Surgery
You will spend several days in the hospital after your procedure. Depending on the location and your overall health, you can expect to be there anywhere from a week to 10 days. In some instances, you may be in the intensive care unit part of this time.
In addition to hospital recovery, when released you will have instructions to follow. You should follow them completely to ensure that your incision heals adequately.
You will also need to follow up with your doctor. During the follow-up, your physician will check to ensure any grafts, clips, coils, or patches are functioning properly and that the aneurysm is not redeveloping.