Open repair means that a large incision is used to open up the chest or abdomen, exposing the organs for visibility and access. FEVAR only requires small incisions, and the chest or abdomen remains closed. This means there is less healing for the body to do after surgery and a shorter recovery time.
During an open repair, if the aneurysm is in your chest, you’ll be placed on cardiopulmonary bypass (a pump that temporarily takes over the function of the heart and lungs during surgery). If the aneurysm is in your abdomen, clamps will be used to stop the blood flow through your aorta while a fabric tube is sewn to healthy tissue above and below the aneurysm. Smaller tubes will be sewn on to the graft and connected to the blood vessels that lead to the kidneys, intestines and liver. Once these connections are made, the clamps will be removed, and blood is allowed to flow back through the repaired aorta. These steps are not necessary with FEVAR.
Following an open procedure, you’ll need to spend several days in the intensive care unit followed by another three to 10 days in the hospital with an extended recovery period. Most patients will require some time in a rehabilitation hospital. It’s important to know that some patients don’t qualify for open surgery because of significant heart or lung disease, or previous abdominal or thoracic surgery. FEVAR patients will typically spend about two to five days in the hospital, and the majority of the time, are able to return home. Sometimes a short stay in a rehab facility is needed to regain strength.