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).
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.
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
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
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
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