Open Surgery Treatment of an Aortic Dissection 

Open surgery is sometimes necessary to repair an aortic dissection and prevent internal bleeding.  

An aortic dissection (tear) is a life-threatening emergency that requires timely medical treatment. If the dissection occurs in the upper section of the aorta near the heart, open surgery will likely be recommended to repair the vessel and prevent internal bleeding. Open surgery requires larger incisions that give the surgeon a full view of damaged structures.  

Conditions Treated   

The aorta is the body’s largest artery. It begins at the heart and runs through the abdomen, where it forks to travel down both legs. An aortic dissection occurs when a tear develops in the inner wall of the aorta, causing blood to rush between the wall’s inner and middle layers. If left untreated, blood could spill out of the aorta and cause internal bleeding that can lead to organ damage, stroke and death.  

Procedure Details      

There are two main types of open aortic dissection surgeries, both of which are performed under general anesthesia in a hospital setting:  

  • Open surgery fenestration – The main goal of this procedure is to increase blood flow to the arteries that feed the kidneys and abdominal organs. It involves excising the dissection flap from the aorta and (in some cases) securing the artery with a stent or graft.  
  • Open aortic reconstruction – This procedure is performed to address aortic dissection that has caused an aneurysm, or a dilated portion of the aortic wall that is at risk of rupturing. It involves removing the entire aneurysm and repairing the aorta.  

What to Expect     

Most patients remain in the hospital for a few weeks after open heart surgery for observation. Once discharged, patients should avoid high-impact activities and lifting anything over 10 pounds for several weeks, as the heart and aorta need time to heal and gain strength.   

Open aortic surgery is a complex operation that comes with risks. Possible complications of open fenestration and aortic reconstruction procedures include:  

  • Stroke  
  • Heart attack  
  • Kidney failure   
  • Pneumonia  
  • Colon damage  
  • Infection  
  • Death  

An individual’s chances of experiencing serious surgical complications will depend on several factors, such as their overall health, as well as how well they follow their physician’s recovery guidelines.  


Aortic dissection is a serious, life-threatening condition. As such, timely treatment—whether it be open surgery, endovascular surgery or medication—is necessary to avoid deadly complications.   

Tampa General Hospital’s Heart & Vascular Institute is a premier destination for vascular surgery, including complex aortic dissection repair procedures. Our team includes nationally regarded, board-certified vascular surgeons who leverage the latest breakthroughs in treatment to achieve world-class outcomes for patients.