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Why Choose Penn Medicine

Cardiac surgeons and vascular surgeons at Penn Medicine’s Aortic Center have more experience with technically demanding aorta surgery than any other center in the region. We successfully treat patients with any type of complex aortic disease, including:

Aorta Surgery Overview

The standard surgery for larger or difficult-to-access thoracic aneurysms, ulcers or dissections is open-chest surgery performed by experienced cardiac surgeons. Your cardiac surgeon will take care to perform the least invasive surgery possible.

To have ample access and visualization of the damaged aorta, their approach may include an incision:

  • Through the breastbone (sternotomy)
  • Under the shoulder blade and around the rib cage under the breast (thoracotomy)

Aorta Surgery Procedure Details

Aorta surgery is performed in an operating suite where a specially trained cardiac anesthesiologist ensures you are asleep and comfortable. Next, your surgeon:

  • Connects you to a heart bypass machine, which takes over the work of pumping blood to your body.
  • Surgically removes the damaged section of the aorta and replaces it with a rigid synthetic graft (tube). 
  • Removes the heart bypass machine and ensures your heart is beating properly.
  • Closes your incision.

Advanced Aorta Surgery 

In some cases, your surgeon may need to perform additional procedures when performing aortic aneurysm or dissection surgery:

  • If the damaged section of the aorta is near the junction of the aorta and heart (the aortic root), they may perform a valve-sparing aortic root replacement. 
  • If your aortic valve is damaged, your surgeon may need to perform aortic valve surgery to repair or replace the valve. Whenever possible we perform transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR), which is a minimally invasive procedure.
  • For thoracic aortic aneurysms or dissections that can’t be effectively treated with one surgical method, surgeons use hybrid aorta surgery. This approach combines open surgery and catheter-based methods in a single operation.

Aorta Surgery: Cardiac and Vascular Surgery Partnership 

When an aortic aneurysm extends beyond the chest into the abdomen it is called a thoracoabdominal aneurysm. Penn cardiac surgeons work side-by-side with vascular surgeons to perform a complete repair of these aneurysms.

For more than two decades, Penn’s cardiac and vascular surgery teams have enjoyed a productive partnership. Their collaboration has resulted in improved outcomes and an increased number of procedures performed each year.

Cardiac Rehabilitation After Aorta Surgery

After open-chest aorta surgery, you will recover in the hospital for up to a week. Your cardiac surgeon will likely recommend cardiac rehabilitation to speed your recovery. Rehab occurs in an outpatient facility and involves exercise, nutrition, education and support from a team of cardiac rehab specialists. Learn more about cardiac rehab.

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