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Thoracic Aortic Aneurysms

A thoracic aortic aneurysm is a widening (bulging) of part of the wall of the aorta, the body's largest artery.

Thoracic aneurysms most often occur in the descending thoracic aorta. Others may appear in the ascending aorta or the aortic arch. The most common cause of a thoracic aortic aneurysm is hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis).

Symptoms:

Most patients have no symptoms until the aneurysm begins to leak or expand. Chest or back pain may mean sudden widening or leakage of the aneurysm.

Treatment:

The treatment depends on the location of the aneurysm.

For patients with aneurysms of the ascending aorta or aortic arch, surgery to replace the aorta is recommended if the aneurysm is larger than 5-6 centimeters. The aorta is replaced with a fabric substitute.

This is major surgery that requires a heart-lung machine. If the aortic arch is involved, a specialized technique called "circulatory arrest" may be necessary. This involves a period without blood circulation while the patient is on life support.

There are usually two options for patients with aneurysms of the descending thoracic aorta. If the aneurysm is larger than 6 centimeters, major surgery is done to replace the aorta with a fabric substitute.

Endovascular stenting is a less invasive option. A stent is a tiny metal or plastic tube that is used to hold an artery open. Stents can be placed into the body without cutting the chest.

Instead, tiny, hollow tubes called catheters are inserted into the groin area. The stent is passed through the catheter and into the area of the aneurysm. Not all patients with descending thoracic aneurysms are candidates for stenting, however.

Call your healthcare provider if you have symptoms of thoracic aortic aneurysm

Texas Health is committed to providing quality care to heart and vascular patients throughout North Texas and beyond. While various technologies and services are discussed here, not all of our hospitals offer every treatment and diagnostic technology highlighted. Call 1-877-THR-WELL to learn more about heart and vascular services at a Texas Health hospital near you