After surgery

Abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA) open repair surgery

After your open repair operation, you spend the night in the overnight intensive recovery unit. We monitor you closely.

Usually, you need to be kept on a breathing machine for a short time after the operation. We take you off this machine as soon as possible.

On the next morning, you see your surgeon and the anaesthetist. They decide if you can be taken to the intensive care high dependency unit (HDU). This depends on how much you need to be monitored.

After surgery, your bowels can stop working for a short time. If this happens, we give you all the fluids that you need through a drip.

You cannot eat solid food straight away and might need a tube down your nose to help if you feel sick.

Managing pain and discomfort

After your surgery, we might give you a machine that puts pain medicine into your vein through a drip. You press a button to control how much pain medicine you have.

If you do not have this machine, we might give you an epidural after surgery. This is when we put a small tube in your back, which helps to give you pain medicine.

A few days after surgery

You start to recover over the next few days. We remove the different tubes in you.

We move you to a ward when you are well enough. You slowly start to eat and drink again.

You see a physiotherapist every day from the first day of your operation. They help you to get moving again. It is important that you get out of bed and practise deep breathing to avoid a chest infection.

Most people stay in hospital for 5 to 10 days, but everyone is different. You can leave hospital when this is safe and you are medically and socially fit.

After you leave hospital

We usually remove your dressing before you leave hospital. If you still need a dressing when you go home, your GP practice nurse or a district nurse can change it for you.

If your stitches or metal clips need removing, we arrange for a practice nurse at your GP surgery or a district nurse to remove them. The nurse also checks your wound. When your wounds are dry, you can have a bath or shower as normal.

You might feel tired and weak for many weeks after the operation. This gets better with time. Your appetite and taste might be affected.

Exercise

We recommend gentle activity like a short walk, together with rest, for the first few weeks. After this time, you can slowly return to your usual activity. It is important not to lift heavy objects for 6 weeks after surgery.

Driving

You can drive when you are no longer in pain and can safely perform an emergency stop. This is usually 3 to 4 weeks after surgery.

If you are not sure when to drive, check with your GP. You need to tell your insurance company that you had a major operation. They can confirm if you are covered to start driving again.

Working

You should be able to return to work 6 to 12 weeks after surgery.

You need to see your GP to get a fit note (sick note). This is a written statement from your doctor giving their medical opinion on if you are fit to work. At your appointment, the GP helps you decide when to go back to work.

Medicines

When you go home, we usually give you these medicines (if you do not already take them):

  • An antiplatelet medicine to prevent blood clots (such as aspirin or clopidogrel).
  • A statin medicine to lower your cholesterol (such as atorvastatin).

Follow-up appointment

We give you an appointment to see your surgeon 6 to 8 weeks after you leave hospital.

We try to make the appointment at your local hospital, but this is not always possible. To make sure that everyone always has up-to-date information about your health, we might share information about you between the hospitals. Please speak to your team if you have any concerns about this.

Resource number: 2876/VER5
Last reviewed: July 2021
Next review due: July 2024

A list of sources is available on request.

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