Recovery After Aortic Aneurysm Repair: What to Expect

Medically Reviewed By William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Written By Sarah Lewis, PharmD on November 8, 2020
  • happy senior couple
    Your overall recovery time depends on the type of surgery you have.
    There are two types of aortic aneurysm repair—open surgery and minimally invasive endovascular surgery. Endovascular surgery generally involves a faster recovery, less pain, and less risk of complications than open surgery. Recovery also depends on whether your aortic aneurysm occurred in the chest or abdomen. It’s important to understand some basic principles of recovering from surgery and how you can help it go well.
  • Female doctor talking with a couple
    Your focus will be to manage your symptoms and regain your strength.
    Your goal during recovery is to manage your symptoms, regain energy, and improve your overall health. This can take time depending on the type of aortic aneurysm repair. Recovery can take several months for open chest surgery to treat a thoracic aortic aneurysm. It may only be a few weeks for an endovascular procedure to treat an abdominal aortic aneurysm. Talk to your doctor from the beginning about strategies for recovery and what you can expect.
  • Pain Medication
    Controlling your pain will help you get better quicker.
    Your pain level will depend on the type of aortic aneurysm repair. Pain tends to be less and resolve more quickly after endovascular procedures. For open chest surgeries, pain may persist for a few weeks. Controlling pain is vital because it helps you complete rehabilitation and increase your activities. So you may go home on a narcotic pain reliever. Ask your doctor before taking other pain relievers, such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) or naproxen (Aleve).
  • Caucasian female physical therapist working with Caucasian female patient on stationary bike
    It may be several months before you can return to a full activity schedule.
    Returning to normal activities can take several days to months, depending on your type of aortic aneurysm repair. In most cases, doctors encourage walking for short periods after surgery. You may need to be able to walk a certain distance before you can go home. Gradually, you’ll add activities and intensity once you’re home. Some people benefit from an exercise rehabilitation program. Ask your doctor when it’s safe to return to daily activities, driving, work, sex, and sports or other leisure activities.
  • Smiling woman at the pool
    You will not have much energy and you’ll need help at home.
    It’s common to feel tired and weak after aortic aneurysm repair. You will likely need someone to help you with daily activities for a time. Remember to rest or nap when you need it. Sticking to your doctor’s instructions for activities and walking will help you regain your energy. Try to get outside and keep a positive attitude toward your recovery. Check with your doctor if your tiredness continues and is not improving.
  • Nurse attending patient
    Wound care and healing time depends on the type of surgery.
    Wound healing time will depend on whether you had open surgery or an endovascular procedure. Follow all instructions for covering and dressing the wound, keeping it dry, and showering. You may need your doctor to remove your stitches or staples. This won’t be necessary if your doctor used dissolving stitches and tape strips. Be sure to call your doctor if your wound is red, swollen, warm, draining excess fluid, bleeding, or starting to open.
  • Stop smoking
    You may need to make lifestyle changes as part of a full recovery.
    Aortic aneurysm repair won’t stop another aneurysm from developing. But you can do your part to prevent it. The key is improving your overall health through a heart-healthy diet, regular exercise, a healthy weight, and treating related conditions, such as high blood pressure. Your doctor may have suggested that you stop smoking or using tobacco before surgery. Quitting during that stressful time might have been too much to ask. If so, recovery is your opportunity to conquer it. Talk to your doctor for more information.
  • dialing-phone
    Complications during recovery are possible; know what to look for.
    It’s important to be aware of possible complications while you recover so you can tell your doctor. Call your doctor right away if you have fever, belly pain or bloating, chest pain, shortness of breath, coughing up blood or yellow-green mucus, or worsening pain. These could be signs of a complication. Other warning signs include pain, swelling, redness or tenderness in the leg, calf, ankle or foot. Call your doctor or seek medical attention if you experience these problems.
  • Happy couple on the beach
    You’ll have follow-up visits to check your progress.
    An ideal recovery is one that returns you to your active life without any symptoms. Most people can achieve this. Remember that you will need regular follow-up visits and imaging tests to check your repair. Sometimes, more surgery is necessary in the future to maintain the graft. Your doctor will check your progress as you heal. Follow your doctor’s recommendations and be sure to call your doctor with any concerns.
Recovery After Aortic Aneurysm Repair: What to Expect
Aortic Aneurysm Repair

About The Author

Sarah Lewis is a pharmacist and a medical writer with over 25 years of experience in various areas of pharmacy practice. Sarah holds a Bachelor of Science in Pharmacy degree from West Virginia University and a Doctor of Pharmacy degree from Massachusetts College of Pharmacy. She completed Pharmacy Practice Residency training at the University of Pittsburgh/VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System. 

  1. Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm Repair. Johns Hopkins University. http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/healthlibrary/test_procedures/cardiovascular/abdominal_aortic_aneurys....

  2. Aortic Aneurysm Surgery. University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. http://www.upmc.com/services/heart-vascular/treatments/vascular-surgery/pages/open-surgery.aspx

  3. Aortic Surgery: After Surgery. Columbia University Medical Center. http://www.columbiasurgery.org/aortic/faqs_after_op.html.

  4. Endovascular Stent Graft. Society for Vascular Surgery. https://www.vascularweb.org/vascularhealth/Pages/endovascular-stent-graft.aspx.

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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2020 Nov 8
THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.