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Complications of surgery for aortic aneurysm

Both traditional (open) surgery and endovascular surgery with stent placement for aortic aneurysm have risks and complications. Infection and bleeding can be a complication from either type of surgical procedure.

Complications of open surgery for abdominal aortic aneurysm may include shock, erection problems, or heart, kidney, or lung problems, which can occur with any major surgery. About 4 to 6 out of 100 people die during surgery or within 30 days after surgery.1 Your risk may be lower depending on your health before surgery and where the aneurysm is located.

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Other complications include problems with the lungs and kidneys, impotence, injury to the ureter, fistulas in the bowel and gastrointestinal bleeding, leaking of the repaired aneurysm, a disruption of the lymphatic system, and reduced blood flow to the colon (colon ischemia).

Colon ischemia (reduced blood flow to the colon) may in turn result in diarrhea, blood in the stool, pain and tenderness, fever, sepsis, and unexplained rapid heartbeat (tachycardia). If there is suspicion of colon ischemia, tests should be conducted and appropriate treatment provided.

Complications of endovascular surgery with stent placement include leaking around the stent, which may lead to another stent placement or traditional (open) surgery. The risk of dying during or soon after an endovascular surgery is lower than the risk from open surgery. About 1 out of 100 people die during endovascular surgery or within 30 days after surgery.1 But over time, this benefit might disappear. After a couple of years after the repair, people who had open surgery may live as long as people who had endovascular surgery.

Endovascular surgery is a relatively new surgery, so the long-term effects are not yet known. You and your doctor will decide which surgery is right for you based on your health and risk factors.

Other complications may include problems from blood clots, such as a heart attack and stroke. Post-implantation syndrome might occur, often immediately after the procedure. Symptoms are fever, a high white blood cell count (leukocytosis), and obstructions in the blood vessels flowing to the kidneys.

Although rare, an infection of the graft is a dangerous problem that requires removal of the graft. If you suffer from systemic infections or a weak immune system or use intravenous (IV) drugs, you are at greater risk for a graft infection.

Complications of surgery for a thoracic aortic aneurysm include heart attack, stroke, heart failure, kidney failure, respiratory failure, and lower body paralysis.


  1. Isselbacher EM (2008). Abdominal aortic aneurysms section of Diseases of the aorta. In P Libby et al., eds., Braunwald's Heart Disease: A Textbook of Cardiovascular Medicine, 8th ed., pp. 1458-1469. Philadelphia: Saunders Elsevier.

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer David A. Szalay, MD - Vascular Surgery
Last Revised January 26, 2010

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: January 26, 2010
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

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