Patients presenting with impending rupture of a thoracoabdominal aortic aneurysm require emergency operative repair. To prevent rupture and its associated mortality, elective repair of thoracoabdominal aortic aneurysms exceeding 5.5 cm to 6.0 cm in diameter is recommended in patients with adequate physiologic reserve. Similarly, surgery should be considered for patients with smaller symptomatic aneurysms. Atypical symptoms have been associated with rupture, therefore, they require thorough evaluation. Whether the aortic conditions are caused by medial degenerative disease or chronic aortic dissection, surgical techniques allow for graft repair of thoracoabdominal aortic aneurysms with low mortality and morbidity rates. Although surgery is usually avoided in patients with acute distal aortic dissection, operative intervention is occasionally required when complications develop. Patients with acute aortic dissection complicated by impending rupture of the thoracoabdominal segment require graft repair to restore aortic integrity; although the mortality rate is acceptable, the incidence of postoperative paraplegia approaches 20% in this setting. For patients presenting with ischemic complications of acute distal aortic dissection, less-extensive surgical options have been effective in restoring perfusion. In experienced centers, overall operative survival rate following thoracoabdominal aortic surgery can exceed 92%. Retrospective data suggest that left heart bypass reduces the incidence of paraplegia following extensive thoracoabdominal aortic repairs. Although recent advances have led to improved outcomes, paraplegia continues to occur regardless of the strategy used. The prevention of spinal cord ischemia during thoracoabdominal aortic surgery, therefore, will remain a focus of controversy and investigation, just as it was more than 4 decades ago.